National Instruction issued by the National Commissioner of SAPS regarding Unlawful Arrests

The below message and attachment is from Martin Hood – SAAADA’s Attorney.

You may download the SAPS circular on the link provided below.

SAPS Circular – Arrest and detention (19.11.2019)


“The importance of the document that I have attached to this e-mail is such that I thought it was justifiable to bring it to your attention. I urge you to carefully read the national instruction issued by the National Commissioner of the South African Police Services, dated the 19th of November 2019.

We are all concerned about high levels of crime, the conduct of the police, their abuse of power and the consequent fear that has arisen by many persons that interact with the South African Police Services where such interaction results in intimidation, abuse, false arrest or has an otherwise unsatisfactory outcome.

We have long been aware of police misconduct in effecting arrests where the law does not justify such an arrest, such as to obtain a statement, to create embarrassment or to intimidate a person into admitting guilt. The abuse of the Thursday and Friday arrests is widely known and the consequent solicitation of bribes for release in order not to spend a weekend in prison is prevalent.

The latest national instruction acknowledges the existence of widespread abuse of the power to arrest and the lack of understanding by members of the South African Police Services as to what powers they have and how they should exercise them.

The national instruction acknowledges that various forms of abuse exist and seeks to stop such abuse.

The National Commissioner in the instruction acknowledges that arrest is a serious restriction on a person’s freedom of movement and their dignity and privacy.

The National Commissioner acknowledges that an arrested person must be brought before court as soon as is possible and not simply within 48 hours.

He acknowledges that some senior police officers have set targets for the effecting of certain numbers of arrests within specified time periods, that persons have been arrested for minor offences where no such power exist to effect an arrest, where arrests have been made to compel the provision of a statement and that arrests have been made to meet illegal targets or in order to inflate numbers for the provision of basic services such as food.

The National Commissioner has directed that it is only in exceptional circumstances and where a person is specifically authorised by an act of Parliament, that an arrest can take place without a Warrant of Arrest.  

The directive states that the detention of a person is a serious and humiliating infringement of their rights and must be limited to a limited a minimum period of time and should be necessitated by the interest of justice.

This signals an intention to radically reshape the conduct of the South African Police Services and to curb the abuse of the power to arrest.  

I urge you all to read the national instruction and have a copy with you at all times (for example taking a photograph and keeping it on your smart phone) in order that you know your rights and to explain a police officer’s obligations to them in the event that you are in the unfortunate situation where you are threatened with arrest by the South African Police Services.

This is a must read for all everybody.

Kind regards,

Martin Hood”