The South Africa Police Service (SAPS) was founded in 1995 to protect citizens and maintain peace and order. To carry out these duties effectively, police officers are given different ranks. The SAPS ranks structure or rank of a police officer determines who he is answerable to and who answers to him or her. At the time of employment, you can only be employed into the rank of a constable, sergeant, or warrant officer, after which you will have to work your way up by improving your qualification and being diligent in your duties.
To be employed in the South Africa Police Service, you have to be at least 25 years or below 40 years. By the time you become 50-55 years old, you should be considering retirement. Therefore to attain a high rank before retirement, you should try to get into the SAPS early and with a good educational qualification.
South Africa Police Service Rank is Divided Into Three
The South Africa Police Service (SAPS) rank structure is divided into three main subdivisions for more administrative efficiency. The SAPS divisions as currently constituted include Commissioned Officers (Senior Management), Commissioned Officers, and Non-commissioned Officers.
Commissioned Officers (Senior Management)
- General (Gen): The rank of a General is the highest in the South Africa Police Service. He is officially referred to as ‘General’ and is designated as National Commissioner. All other police officers are answerable to his command.
- Lieutenant General (Lt Gen): This is the second-highest rank, and in the absence of the General, the Lieutenant General is the next in command. He is also officially referred to as ‘General’ and can hold Deputy National Commissioner, Divisional Commissioner, Regional Commissioner, and Provincial Commissioner’s post.
- Major General (Maj Gen): The Major General, who also officially referred to as ‘General,’ is the next in command after the Lieutenant General.
- Brigadier (Brig): Brigadier is the last commissioned officer rank in the senior management cadre.
- Colonel (Col): This is the highest rank of commissioned officers. It is one of the ranks that was introduced in 2010 when the SAPS rank structure was reorganized. He is officially referred to as ‘Colonel.’
- Lieutenant Colonel (Lt Col): In the absence of the Colonel, the Lieutenant Colonel is the next in command, and he is also officially referred to as ‘Colonel.’
- Major (Maj): Major was one of the ranks that were added when the SAPS ranks structure was amended in 2016.
- Captain (Capt): The Captain’s rank is next to the Major, and in the major’s absence, the Captain is considered next in command.
- Lieutenant (Lt): This is the lowest rank in the Commissioned Officers category. It was also included when the SAPS ranks structure was amended in 2016.
- Warrant Officer (WO): This is the highest rank of Non-commissioned officers.
- Sergeant (Sgt): This rank is higher than that of constables. Sergeants are in charge of a set of constables and are also involved in the day-to-day maintenance of law and order.
- Constable (Const): This is the lowest rank of the SAPS. They are responsible for maintaining law and order and serving court orders.
The Non-commissioned category of SAPS officers is the only category that is employable by the government. The other categories are attained according to the number of years put into police service.
The Current SAPS Ranks Structure Was Introduced in 2010
The General and Colonel’s rank in the South Africa Police Service (SAPS) was introduced in 2010. The two new ranks were introduced to make the police a paramilitary force and structure the police ranking to look more like a military ranking system. The South African Police authorities may have had a good reason to do this, but the new ranks sparked many controversies.
One of the controversies was that black South Africans were not so comfortable with the idea. It was similar to the SAPS rank structure used during the apartheid era in South Africa. Most South Africans saw it as a plot to put the police under the military’s control.
The SAPS Ranks Structure Was Amended in 2016 To Include New Ranks
In 2016, the South Africa Police Service (SAPS) rank structure was amended, and two additional ranks were once again created – Lieutenant and Major. These ranks were included to improve employment opportunities and became functional after the next promotion exercise. Aside from the two newly introduced ranks, some other rank’s designation was changed, and those affected were to translate to the new equivalent while those not affected maintained the status quo.
The newly introduced ranks include:
- National Commissioner-General
- Deputy National Commissioner – Lieutenant General
- Divisional Commissioner – Lieutenant General
- Provincial Commissioner – Lieutenant General
- Assistant Commissioner – Major General
- Director – Brigadier
- Inspector – Warrant Officer
SAPS Are Among the Best-paid Workers in South Africa
The salary of police officers in South Africa depends on their rank. Those at the top of the ranking structure are paid higher, while those on the lower cadre of the SAPS ranks structure are paid lower. However, on a general scale, South Africa’s government ensures that all police officers in South Africa are paid above the country’s minimum wage. On average, the salaries of South African police officers range from R142,997 to R354,504 per year.
South Africa Police Service Ranks and Their Salaries
A report on the South African Police Service (SAPS) shows the average salaries received by the various categories of the SAPS as follows:
- Senior Management (Commissioned Officers including General, Lieutenant General, Major General, and Brigadier): R863,766 – R1,403,000
- Commissioned Officers (Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel, Major, Captain, and Lieutenant): R505,527 – R872,334
- Non-commissioned Officers (Warrant Officer, Sergeant, and Constable): R175,000 – R407,000
SA Police Officers Also Receive Allowances
In a bid to encourage police officers to perform their duties without perverting the law and justice, the government tries as much as possible to see that they are financially stable. As such, aside from their salaries, police officers also receive some allowances. In the past, police officers used to receive standard danger allowance and super danger allowance. However, these two allowances were eliminated and replaced with a non-pensionable standard policing allowance of R400 for all police officers.
Officers who perform special functions like explosive dog handlers, guarding high-class citizens, mortuary personnel, to mention a few, are entitled to an extra monthly allowance of R300. Whenever an officer is promoted, they are also entitled to a promotion allowance to encourage their effort and adjust to their new rank.
SAPS is Categorized into Divisions
For effective organization, the South Africa Police Service (SAPS) is divided into six divisions. These different divisions are made up of police officers in different ranks. Each division is led by a high-ranking officer who is familiar with how things work in the division.
1. The Crime Combating and Investigation Division: As the name implies, this division is responsible for investigating crime and keeping criminal records. They investigate crimes like (but not limited to) kidnapping, robbery, and theft.
2. Visible Policing Division: The Visible Policing division is responsible for guarding high-class citizens. Members of the tactical unit (Special Taskforce) are also a part of this division. The unit also handles hostage situations and was responsible for protecting the 91 heads of state that visited South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s burial in 2013.
3. The Internal Stability Division: The Internal Stability division is responsible for maintaining peace and order. Members of this division also work with other divisions to fight crime.
4. Community Relations Division: This division is responsible for ensuring that human rights are maintained during interactions between police officers and the public.
5. Supporting Services Division: Members of the Supporting Services division are in charge of all administrative, financial, and legal issues.
6. Human Resource Management Division: The Human Resource Management division is responsible for police officers’ welfare. They organize training and also conduct recruitment.