Media Release: 100 Days as Minister of Community Safety
- 21st Century approach to crime fighting
- Pushing our mandate to the limit
- Fighting gun crime – R10 000 reward
- R5 million toward reservists
- Launch of crime fighter recognition awards
- Pushing for answers on emergency policing needs – discussions focused on launching an intergovernmental dispute
- The Anti-Gang Unit – debunking a political ploy
- Request for investigation into Major-General Jeremy Vearey
- Western Cape Government employees volunteering as Commissioners of Oaths
- Fighting Cele’s appeal against equality court judgment which states that police management is discriminating against poor and black residents in terms of allocation, and system of allocation
- Watching Briefs – alerting Minister Cele to systemic failures of police
- R26 million additional in Western Cape Government funding toward crime fighting:
- Professionalise Neighbourhood Watches – resources, technology
- Establish K9 Units to fight drug and abalone crime
- Risk mitigation in municipalities
- Partnering with Mayor Dan Plato on addressing Crime and Grime
- Police station oversight visits
- Neighbourhood watch raids
- R10 000 payments to support functioning of accredited Neighbourhood Watches
- Moves to decentralise police services to regional level
- Moves to localise rail services
It has been just over 100 days since I took office as Provincial Minister of Community Safety. This time has been marked by building our own capacity to fight crime, and by strengthening our stance toward the national police minister to ensure he accounts for his failure to achieve same, and takes corrective steps.
Early on, I set myself the goal of becoming the safest province in South Africa. The situation our residents are currently faced with is untenable. Every day, an average of 10 people are murdered in our province. Many are innocent children, bystanders going about their daily business, women in their own homes. The Western Cape’s police-to-population ratio remains at an alarming 1 officer for every 509 residents. In Cape Town, it’s worse at 1:560. The national average is 1:375.
These numbers are abysmal, and more resources would undoubtedly assist. But, it is also clear to me that conventional policing methods will not address this scourge. We need to move our crime fighting efforts into the 21st century, using the manpower of all our people, and technology.
As a Provincial Government, The Constitution limits us to an oversight role regarding policing.
We have now taken the decision to push this role to the limit.
One of the first engagements I held was a two-day Safer Western Cape Conference, at the River Club in Observatory, with all the crime-fighting and safety role players, including SAPS, local and international experts, academics, civil society partners, all three spheres of government and community stakeholders, such as representatives of Neighbourhood Watches (NHW) and Community Policing Forums (CPFs). Premier Helen Zille, and the National Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, were also present and addressed the delegates.
Pursuant to the Safer Western Cape Conference, the following initiatives were launched:
1. The R10 000 reward system for reporting where an illegal firearm is located. Residents can call 078 330 9333 to report the illegal firearm. Once the police have confiscated the illegal firearm, the individual who reported it, will be rewarded by the Department of Community Safety.
2. R5 million, to reignite the reservist programme
3. The Crime-Fighter Recognition Award, which aims to recognise the efforts by individuals and groups in their pursuit of creating a #SaferWesternCape. The first recipient of the award was Sergeant Daryl van Noie, a SAPS detective based at Manenberg Police Station who dealt a swift arrest to the five alleged perpetrators of an armed attack on a female Emergency Medical Service (EMS) staff member.
I am pleased to announce that at my management meeting this morning, I was advised that we are to award our first R10 000 as part of our illegal firearm confiscation programme.
We are hoping to issue further rewards in the near future, and are driving this matter with the provincial commissioner. I want to urge residents to continue reporting illegal firearms, as we need to get them off our streets if we are to curb the various shootings in communities. As an additional intervention, I have engaged with City of Cape Town Mayco Member JP Smith around law enforcement officers facilitating the confiscation process. These discussions are progressing.
On the 10th of October 2018, the Western Cape Cabinet wrote emergency correspondence to the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, on the Province’s Policing Needs and Priorities (PnP). Due to the urgency of correspondence, which sought to address massive under-resourcing of police in the province, a response was requested within 30 days. I wrote a follow-up letter on 11 December 2018. Just as the initial PNP letter was ignored, so to was the second correspondence. By law, the national minister is beholden to take our recommendations and requests into consideration, but, this minister prefers to play politics with people’s safety. The Western Cape Government will shortly be taking further steps to ensure our PNP recommendations are adhered to. In terms of acting in good faith, provinces are called to declare an intergovernmental dispute before proceeding to court, and that is exactly what we in the process of discussing.
On 10 December 2018, following the launch of the Anti-Gang Unit, which we have welcomed, I wrote to Minister Bheki Cele to acquire information on the staffing and resourcing of this unit, as we have not received any formal correspondence. I had heard from community members that investigating officers were pulled from the murder cases of their loved ones, to serve in the AGU. One mother told me that she had been unable to bury her daughter since the case remains open.
No response has been received. I have however had sight of a parliamentary response which proved that officers had simply been pulled from elsewhere, which would have a knock-on effect in those communities. I have on many occasions asked myself whether the AGU is a serious body out to catch top gangsters, or whether it is a political ploy. I have yet to learn of the arrest of a single high flyer, and the answer therefore seems clear. The tragedy is that our residents feel crime every day of every year, not just in the run up to an election.
On 10 January 2019, pursuant to various reports and the conduct of Major-General Vearey, where he appears to have been caught in a blatant lie regarding a telephonic conversation with a journalist, I wrote to the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), requesting that Mr Vearey be investigated. We cannot have individuals with questionable character in strategic leadership positions in the SAPS.
It was acknowledged to the press that my request was received, and I expect a follow up on this matter shortly.
Even though the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, is spending a lot of his time in the Western Cape, this is pretence at its best, as the Minister refuses to acknowledge the role that all spheres of Government should play in combatting crime. Not once has the Minister ever invited the Provincial authority to any of his engagements in the Western Cape.
How do we as a collective fight crime, if the national Minister constantly refuses to include his Provincial counterpart, yet when he travels to other Provinces, the local MEC is included? It has become abundantly clear that the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, has no plan to address the shortage of police resources in the Western Cape.
As part of our efforts to address the shortage of police officers on our streets and to get more members on active patrolling duty, I launched a week-long pilot project which saw Western Cape Government employees volunteering as Commissioners of Oaths so that police officers can focus on averting crime. This pilot was a huge success, with our staff capable of attending to up to 200 residents per hour, a massive relief for officers. I am pleased to announce that we will be proceeding with the full role out of this programme, incrementally and at key points, across the province. If Minister Cele does not allow us to use a room in the station, despite our requests which have gone unanswered, we will use our own safety kiosks and station they nearby, as we did last week.
I refuse to play Minister Cele’s political game with crime. Too many people are dying due to invisible policing, as they either do not have the manpower or resources to patrol our communities.
What is a further disgrace, is Minister Cele’s refusal to withdraw SAPS’ appeal against the Western Cape Equality Court finding that national Government is discriminating against poor and black Western Cape residents in how it allocates police resources. It also found that the system that is being used to allocate police resourcing is unfairly discriminating against poor and black people in the Western Cape. We support the SJC in their bid for fair resourcing, a fight which needs to be amplified by all bodies.
Even though the Minister committed during a radio interview to withdraw the appeal, this has not occurred yet. The integrity of police management, two of whose members have been caught in lies in recent weeks, is eroding at rapid pace.
Through our Watching Brief programme, which is part of our oversight role, we have identified systemic failures in policing. Just for the period of 1 October to 31 December 2018, we found that 312 cases had to be struck off the roll due to:
CASES STRUCK OFF COURT ROLE FOR QUARTER 3
DOCKETS NOT AT COURT
WITNESSES NOT AT COURT
UNAVAILABILITY OF FORENSIC REPORTS
ACCUSED NOT BROUGHT TO COURT
For this period, it was found that Nyanga was responsible for 20% of the dockets not being at court.
This is part of the reason why I am calling for the decentralisation of the police service in South Africa. All other countries with functioning democracies have regionalised police services that are highly effective, because their superiors have in-depth knowledge of the local conditions and how resources should be allocated.
Thus far, I have had 3 meetings with the Provincial Police Commissioner. Amongst others, we have discussed the current in-fighting amongst the SAPS Provincial top management, addressing the search warrant issue when an illegal firearm is reported and the quarterly release of the crime statistics. Lieutenant-General Khombinkosi Jula has in all cases been helpful and responsive, yet appears stymied by his bosses in Pretoria.
As mentioned, the Western Cape Department of Community Safety is eager and ready to play a more active role in addressing safety, within our powers.
Through the adjustment budget tables in a November 2018, R26 million additional was allocated to the Department for the following:
1. support for drug and abalone parching K-9 Unit
2. Strengthening and professionalising NHWs. In this respect, we have been pleased to take learnings from amongst others, the NSRI, who emphasized resourcing, training and communications as key to successful volunteer organizations.
3. Commissioner of Oaths initiative and
4. To assist Municipalities to counter violence and damage of property, due to protest action.
Part of this funding will go to the City of Cape Town to support their law enforcement operations. Mayor Dan Plato and I have met, and have agreed to the importance of cleaning up the City. Crime is directly linked to grime. The Mayor has embarked on a massive clean-up programme, which is visible in many of our communities and is being rolled out aggressively. I would like to thank the Mayor for his dedication to fighting crime, and for being a true partner of the province in addressing issues that matter to our residents.
During November and early December, I visited more than 10 police stations, two base camps and walked with Neighbourhood Watches, Community Police Forums and other volunteer community safety structures across the Province. Among others, they include Steenberg, Bishop Lavis, Philippi, Ravensmead, Athlone, Mitchells Plain, George Central, Pacaltsdorp and Strand.
I also attended the graduation of 190 females from Chrysalis Academy. The ladies were part of the 18 BRAVO course, which ran from 1 September 2018 until the end of November. Students came from various communities across the province, including Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain, Hanover Park, Plettenberg bay, George, Mossel Bay, Knysna, Beaufort West, Saldanha, Hermanus, Piketberg, Albertinia, Van Rhynsdorp and Worcester among many others. I am extremely proud of these young leaders of our communities, who have shown that they are ready to work hard, and play active roles in their communities.
I committed to the community safety volunteer structures that we will strengthen, support and empower them even more, as they are essential cogs in our safety machine. We have set a budget aside for the Neighbourhood Watch(NHW) programme which will see accredited NHW’s receiving R10 000 each, so that they are able to acquire further equipment or items to strengthen their crime-fighting efforts.
Since we approved this payment process, 101 accredited NHW’s have received their funding. Currently, 27 payments are being processed. Our goal is to ensure that all NHW’s are eventually resourced equally.
Furthermore, I also went on night patrols with the Steenberg and Goodwood community volunteer safety structures. While on patrol in Goodwood, I found only four officers on duty at the Goodwood police station. Over the next few weeks, more I will be doing more patrols with other communities.
Our rail system is in dire straits. I conducted an oversight visit to Philippi train station, and on the morning of the visit, an individual was electrocuted on the train. Engaging with commuters, they made it clear that most of the time they do not feel unsafe on the train, but they have no alternative to get to work or school, as other modes of transport are too expensive.
We believe that a localised train service would ensure that commuters get to enjoy a world class rail service.
On Tuesday, 22 January 2019, I hosted this year’s first Western Cape Provincial Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) meeting. The committee, which is established in terms of section 25(1) of the Western Cape Community Safety Act (CSA), advises the Minister on strategies, policies, budgets and annual performance plans, issues relating to safety and security and any other matters arising from the implementation of the CSA. It meets on a quarterly basis.
We still have a long way to go to making this the safest province in the country. Noting the failures of the national government in addressing crime, I believe that a decentralised police service and an active community safety volunteer structure are our best tools to make a difference.