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South African Police Receive Chinese Training

FILE - South African Police Service officers line up near temporary dwelling built by foreign migrants in front of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees offices in Pretoria on April 21, 2023 ahead of a forced eviction.
FILE - South African Police Service officers line up near temporary dwelling built by foreign migrants in front of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees offices in Pretoria on April 21, 2023 ahead of a forced eviction.

South Africa's police minister, Bheki Cele, and a delegation of senior police officials recently returned from a visit to China, where they discussed strengthening law enforcement collaboration.

“The ministry is confident that the country’s crime problems can be better dealt with when we also step up smart policing. This is why the country is exploring all avenues in this regard including cooperation with Chinese law enforcement to assist in technological advancement,” police ministry spokesperson Lirandzu Themba told VOA.

According to a police statement, the delegation’s five-day trip included visits to police stations in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, and engagements at China People’s Public Security University, an elite training institution.

“Members from SAPS (South African Police Service) specialized units such as the National Intervention Unit (NIU) and Special Task Force (STF) recently received combat and educational training and graduated from the university,” the statement noted.

Minister Cele also met with China's minister of public security, Wang Xiaohong. High on the agenda was “the establishment of a formal and rigorous policing exchange program of personnel capabilities and training between the two countries.”

The two also discussed security preparations for the upcoming summit of the BRICS group of emerging nations. The summit is being held in Johannesburg in August and will be attended by China’s president, Xi Jinping.

“Environmental crimes, the collaboration to deal with violent crimes in South Africa through technological interventions, and the safety of nationals residing in both countries also featured high on the agenda,” the statement said.

Wang will be working with South Africa on issues including “Belt and Road security, crackdown on transnational crimes and law enforcement capacity building,” reported Chinese state news agency Xinhua.

South Africa continues to struggle with violent crime. In the first three months of this year, there were 6,289 murders and the country has among the highest rates of rape in the world. Assaults and robberies have also increased compared to the same time period in 2022.

New research

The South African trip comes in the wake of a new report that details growing police co-operation between China and many African countries.

“Between 2018 and 2021 over 2,000 African police and law enforcement personnel received training in China,” said the report, published last month by The Africa Center for Strategic Studies.
China has supplied African countries with police equipment and also built police training schools, it said.

“China’s expanding public security frontlines and tactics in Africa have triggered debates about how much sovereignty African countries surrender by offering Chinese security agencies a highly permissive environment to craft a growing mix of security mechanisms within African countries,” the study said.

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress received Chinese support during its fight against apartheid. The report’s author, Paul Nantulya, said that many within the ANC share a basic “anti-imperialist stance.”

Asked if South Africa’s democratic system doesn’t put it at odds with a one-party state like China when it comes to policing, Nantulya noted the ANC favors closer ties with China.

“This is the wider political setting in which South Africa, which adheres to separation of powers, can prioritize getting policing tips from China, which comes from a tradition of absolute party control of the state and security forces, including police,” he told VOA.

He added, the statement issued by the South Africans after the recent visit “underscores the multifaceted engagement between the South African police and law enforcement agencies and their Chinese counterparts, which has been in operation since 2010 and was renewed in 2019.”

“It entails high level political exchanges (twice yearly), police training and capacity building, targeted language training, Chinese community policing forums, reciprocal visits to police stations and institutions and the training of South African police in Chinese police academies,” he said.