SAPS under fire for 2.5 million ‘undetected’ case dockets

Police Minister Bheki Cele. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/Independent Newspapers

Police Minister Bheki Cele. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/Independent Newspapers

Published Apr 16, 2024


The SAPS has come under fire for the more than 2.5 million “undetected” case dockets in the past three financial years.

Police Minister Bheki Cele revealed the figure in a parliamentary response to Freedom Front Plus (FFP) leader Dr Pieter Groenewald, who enquired about the number and percentage of all serious crimes in respect of detection rate and those closed as undetected since 2020/21.

According to Cele, when a docket was closed as undetected, it meant that the investigation had not yielded enough evidence to positively identify the suspects involved.

Cele said a total of 2 550 173 dockets were closed as undetected – 812 094 in 2020/21; 814 879 the following year; and 923 500 in 2022/23.

“All available information and leads were exhausted during the investigation in an attempt to gather evidence and identify those responsible for a crime.

However, if after thorough investigation there is still insufficient evidence to pinpoint a suspect, the case may be closed as undetected,” he said.

Cele explained that closing a case docket as undetected did not necessarily mean that the investigation was considered complete or efforts to solve the case ceased entirely.

“It simply means that at that point in time the available information and leads have been followed up, without leading to a conclusive identification of the perpetrator(s). The decision to close a case as undetected is not bound by a specific timeline. Instead, it relies on the judgement of the investigators based on the thoroughness of their investigation and the absence of sufficient evidence to identify the suspect(s),” he said.

Cele said cases remained undetected until new information was received that may assist in identifying and tracing the suspect(s).

“Case dockets closed as undetected are re-opened annually for further investigation.”

Cele said the detection rate ranged between 33.42% and 35.34% during the same period. He said 628 358 warrants of arrest were issued with regard to undetected cases.

Groenewald said an effective detective service was one of the best defences against serious crime, but it was becoming more and more evident that this defence was crumbling in South Africa.

“The minister’s reply makes it clear that the police force no longer has the ability to combat serious crime.

“More than 40% of all reported cases remain unsolved and the chances of successful prosecution by the courts are even slimmer,” Groenewald said.

He said Justice and Correctional Services Minister Ronald Lamola had in a recent answer to a parliamentary question indicated that more than 1.8 million criminal cases dating from 2018/19 could not be tried, and had to be closed due to incomplete dossiers.

This as SAPS national commissioner General Fannie Masemola revealed at the end of last year to the portfolio committee on police that the police service had lost a total of 8 400 detectives since 2016.

“Clearly, the entire criminal justice system has basically collapsed under ANC rule,” Groenewald said.

“Nothing illustrates it better than the country’s murder rate. Six years ago, it was 34 murders per 100 000 of the population. It increased to 36.5 in 2022, and now stands at 45 – the second highest in the world,” he pointed out.

Cape Times