SA’s peace and security functions will have spending growth of 5.2% over the medium term, the budget tabled by finance minister Malusi Gigaba shows.

The peace and security functions are defence and state security, police services, law, courts and prisons, as well as home affairs.

Home affairs has been given the smallest piece of the pie — just R7.9bn — while the expenditure budgeted for police services goes up from R93.7bn in the revised budget of 2017/2018 to R99.1bn for 2018/2019.

The justice cluster was eroded by former president Jacob Zuma in his almost two terms in office. The National Prosecuting Authority has been accused of colluding with Zuma to keep him from facing criminal charges, elite crime fighting unit the Hawks was rendered toothless and the state security agency was said to be using its powers to fight political battles.

As part of the efforts to improve access to court, the budget reprioritised R121m to the department of justice & constitutional development. This amount has been allocated to the office of the chief justice, the National Prosecuting Authority and Legal Aid SA to begin operations at the Mpumalanga high court, which is scheduled to open this year.

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) receives R158.5m. The funds will be used to increase staffing and finalise the review of its founding legislation in line with a 2016 judgment by the constitutional court.

This money will also be used to address weaknesses in internal controls and Ipid’s case-management system.

Johan Burger, research associate for the Institute for Security Studies, says the increase to the police services budget makes sense given the rising crime statistics.

He adds that even though there are fewer functional police officers on the ground, one has to take into consideration that the aim is to grow the public order police force from about 4,500 to about 9,000 members by 2019.

Cosatu has, however, warned that the cutting of public service posts by 3% over the past two years has already been detrimental to the service to the public. The trade union federation says the police head count will be cut at a time when crime is on the rise.

Steve Swart from the African Christian Democratic Party says that if law enforcement agencies such as the Hawks and the Asset Forfeiture Unit were given additional capacity, "they could recover the billions that have been wasted and stolen through corruption and state capture, and this can assist in balancing the books and ensure that we are on a fiscal consolidation path — which will [boost] business confidence and reassure our investors."

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