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Key Note Remarks by the Deputy Minister of Police, Ms Makhotso Maggie Sotyu: at the National Symposium on the Mainstreaming of HIV/AIDS, STI’s, and TB in the Workplace Targeting the Senior Management
20 August 2014

Programme Director,
Lt. General Mgwenya,
Lt. General Mpembe,
All SAPS Top Management present,
SAPS Stakeholders (POLMED, DPSA, etc)
Ladies and Gentlemen,

As you might all be aware, the Leadership of SAPS, has indicated in the Budget Vote Speeches delivered at Parliament in July 2014, that, for this Governance Term 2014-2019, a priority will be given to the SAPS employee health and wellness, which would encompass an entire police officer’s career: recruitment retention, and retirement.

As the Ministry of Police, we are thus particularly pleased to witness the response in this form of a symposium.

Yes, from the information I got from the organizers of this event, it is said that, this is the first National Symposium on the mainstreaming of HIV/AIDS and TB in the work place targeting the senior management of the South African Police Service.

And, if this is true, then I will critically say this gathering has been long overdue by Government’s policies and standards.

Notwithstanding, this symposium comes at an opportune time, when the Department of Health, under the leadership of Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, has been doing a sterling job to rise the expectancy of ordinary South Africans with AIDS (without medical aids) from just a mere 51.6 years in 2005, to a respectable 60 years in 2013, through the free anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) programme.

This Programme has since prompted the international community to hail South Africa as a model for HIV/AIDS treatment, as it boasts the largest treatment project in the world.

I am thus a little bit concerned when I read in your information note, Major General Mzamane, that there was no mention of the Department of Health (or Social Development for that matter) as one of your external partners to be invited to this symposium.

I am also worried that the intended audience seems to be absent from this Symposium. I must say right now and unhindered, that this Symposium must not be taken as a talk-shop, because it is not.

This gathering must be taken seriously by all SAPS Top Management, as the issue at hand: the SAPS EHWP: directly addresses the challenges that our lower ranked police officers daily face as they are on the streets fighting crime.

And some of these challenges emanate from outdated and oppressive policies that negate the performance and rightful benefits of our police officers, whether active, retired or deceased.

The South African Police Service is one of the largest Government Department in terms of the number of employees we have within the SAPS.

We have about 190000 employees, and, more than 60% of the whole of SAPS’ budget goes to the salaries and benefits of these employees. Therefore, with this kind of financial investment in human resources, it goes without saying that the most valuable resource within the SAPS organization is its police officers.

Thus, the SAPS would need all facets of strategies from different external partners to ensure for a well-managed health and wellness policies that will make a difference in both the safety and stability of each active police officer of the SAPS, whether on duty or off duty.

We must remember that we are dealing with a predominantly male-dominated organization, where there is a silent culture that says: “men must remain in control of a situation”.

So, the SAPS Employee Health and Wellness Programme must ensure to untangle these suppressed emotions, as they often lead to an increased risk in unstable and irresponsible behaviours.

It must also be remembered that HIV/AIDS is not just an issue of medical and clinical. This disease is also a societal and development issue. And, hence we say, we need more expert stakeholders here.

In an effort to maximize employee performance, a strong wellness program should embrace the input of local and provincial government officials, union members, faith-based organizations, substance abuse rehabilitation programmes, and other external stakeholders for successful implementation.

By doing so, we will be focusing not only on issues of safety strategies that protect police officers during their policing duties.

As a profession, law enforcement historically had focused on safety strategies that protect officers during their policing duties (e.g., tactical skills, pursuit driving, firearms training, and use-of-force scenarios).

As the SAPS Leadership, we therefore support the SAPS Management that now seeks to take into account the daily stresses this profession has on those men and women in blue who serve and protect our communities.

If we do not do this, then our profession risks losing officers to cynicism, apathy, chemical dependencies/substance abuse, unhealthy lifestyle choices, suicides, and other anti-social behaviours.

As you are all here strategizing and synergizing all expert inputs and recommendations, I would also like to you to consider the following matters in question for in-depth research, to assist in the improvement of the SAPS EHWP:

  • What is the expected average life expectancy of an active SAPS police officer?
  • Do our police officers know their human and labour rights on Managing Injury and Illness in the working place?
  • Are benefits to fitness for duty made available for all police officers?
  • How many of our police officers are infected and affected by HIV/AIDS?

In conclusion, we would like to say to all our police officers, that this organization is obligated to provide a healthy and productive workplace. And, we will make sure that all those detrimental policies are reviewed and changed, to enhance and strengthen the health and wellness of every active police officer.

And, thus, as the SAPS Leadership, we will continue ensure that effective policies and standards of Employee Health and Wellness are developed and set within the SAPS, so that our men and women in blue can go home to their families each day after work, feeling cared for and looked after by the employer.

We believe that to concern ourselves with the health and wellness of our police officers, the related benefits will certainly pay long-term dividends for employees, families, the organization, the community, and the whole nation.

Otherwise, the impact of an unhealthy or mentally impaired police officer has implications not only for the individual officer and the SAPS, but also for the society as a whole.

Police Officers operating under severe and chronic stress factors, are at greater risk for error, inefficiency, accidents and overreaction, which can compromise their overall performance, jeopardize public safety and pose significant liability costs to the SAPS.

I wish you well in your deliberations. May they bring positive impact to the health and wellness of our police officers.

I thank you all.

Ms. Nomsa Hani
Head of Office & Spokesperson
Office of the Deputy Minister of Police

Tel: +27 12 3934469 / 21 4677023
Fax: +27 12 3934614 / 21 4614174
Cell: +27 (0) 82 772 2053

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