Safer Communities through Meaningful Partnerships
Statement by Dan Plato, Western Cape Minister of Community Safety
The Premier details in her speech why and how we need to ensure that we create jobs and grow the economy in the Western Cape, Strategic Goal 1. Strategic Goal Two: Improving education outcomes and opportunities for youth development, feeds into this through ensuring that our learners complete their education to study and work towards a career and future they value.
For our youth to be economically active and participating citizens as young adults, they need to be allowed to acquire and develop the necessary skills. For some people, this is a fairly easy progression from an Early Childhood Development centre, to a primary school, a high school and if they so wish, a college or university before they enter the job market.
For some of our province’s youth, the path is far more complicating, riddled with dangers and threatening realities – poverty, gangsterism, crime and drugs – prohibiting them from even considering any alternative future.
Honourable Speaker, we cannot allow a generation of youth to miss out on existing opportunities, both from the public and private sector, which will empower them to improve their own lives and the lives of their families.
The Department of Community Safety understands the necessity for our youth to be safe and to have access to opportunities and development at safe venues. That is why our interventions and meaningful partnerships across the board seek to help communities create safer environments and for the youth to have safer alternatives available to them.
Honourable Speaker, Premier Zille mentioned that we will be formalising our youth safety partnership with Northlink College. This partnership has already provided more than 2000 study opportunities to youth at risk through Northlink’s bursary programme.
Since the beginning of 2015, the Department of Community Safety has embarked on numerous youth focused safety outreaches in our communities. This outreach programme aims to ensure that our younger residents, who are unemployed and not studying return to school, pursue further education or training, work towards careers and have all the information they need to make responsible choices and not fall victim to negative social behaviour like gangsterism and drugs.
We have already visited Manenberg, Tafelsig, Nyanga and Scottsdene accompanied by the Western Cape Departments of Education and Social Development, all with the aim of reaching out to a particular community and assisting them with their immediate safety concerns. The outreach also serves as an interpersonal platform where government can inform communities about the various programmes that exist within the Department of Community Safety to create safer communities, as well as the basket of services available to the public from the Western Cape Government as a whole.
In one sector of Nyanga alone we managed to engage with more than 300 youths on their safety concerns and took the particulars of more than 200 youth to assist them in applying for bursaries. This is the intervention that the Premier is talking about.
Honourable Speaker, in our effort to increase safety in our communities we have expanded the Youth Safety and Religious Organisation Partnership across the Province. Premier Zille highlighted the more than 17 000 young people who have participated in this programme during the December 2014 holidays alone.
This programme is currently in its 3rd year and sees the Department of Community Safety partner with the religious fraternity in the Western Cape to target youth between the ages of 14 and 21 in 50 different areas across the province during the school holidays when these youth are most at risk of falling prey to negative social behaviours like drug abuse and gangsterism.
Programmes and activities on offer focus on awareness and prevention of drug-abuse, gangsterism, gender-based violence, child trafficking, HIV/Aids, teenage pregnancy and provide our youth with life skills development and practical safety tips.
The different sports, drama and cultural activities, motivational talks and youth development of the YSRP co-produces conditions best suited for the youth to feel safer during the Festive Season, to involve youth in positive and constructive activities conducted by the Religious Fraternity, as well as to enhance the level of active citizenship within high risk communities.
Honourable Speaker, the Department of Community Safety also welcomes Premier Zille’s mention of the different safety officers being employed through our partnership with the City of Cape Town into our communities through the school resource officers and stabilisation unit.
The Department of Community Safety understands that in order for learners to feel safe at school and to restore safety in communities under specific threat of violence, we need to have visible and preventative law enforcement officials at hand who can diffuse the situation. This aids as visible safety support and subsequently frees up the police to make arrests, investigate the offences and help ensure convictions.
Thirty School Resource officers will be deployed at schools in the City of Cape Town Metro and 90 Law Enforcement Auxiliary (LEA) officers will be deployed in communities where there are spikes in gang violence. This is a partnership between the City of Cape Town and the Department of Community Safety.
Honourable Speaker, the Department of Community Safety also builds meaningful partnerships to create safer environments for a community as a whole, not only for the youth. Our dedicated safety partners in communities remain the neighbourhood watch and community policing forum – our eyes and ears on the ground. This is a partnership which relies on and includes the cooperation with the South African Police Service (SAPS) and I am grateful for the many dedicated and hardworking police officers and station commanders who work tirelessly in their communities and who partner with us in our efforts.
However, more often than not our communities need more than just eyes and ears on the ground - they need the assistance of officers and visible safety mechanisms to help them create a safer environment.
Police stations are sometimes not located in areas which are easily accessible to all communities. To date, the Department of Community Safety has provided 20 Safety Kiosks to address this reality with the core objective to serve as a link between the police station, private security providers, neighbourhood watch and CPF and the community.
Premier Zille’s announcement that 40 safety kiosks, in addition to the existing 20 that have been deployed across the Province, will be made available to assist in existing efforts to create safer communities and to address the need of our communities; is welcomed.
These kiosks offer a visible safety access point in high risk areas as an incubator for cooperation between all safety role-players, services available to the community and members of the community themselves.
Honourable Speaker, the Department of Community Safety will continue to provide the safety services of excellence which the people of the Western Cape have come to expect of us. Among these services are the Court Watching Briefs – a first in South Africa – which is helping to ensure that police inefficiencies hampering court procedures with regards to convictions and prosecutions – is sufficiently addressed by SAPS and contributes to a better quality of policing in the Province.
Our team of legal experts and standing partnership with post-graduate law students supervised by a senior advocate, monitors court cases to identify the problems why certain cases result in failure to secure convictions.
We are all humans and we all make mistakes but an error on the part of the SAPS in submitting all the necessary information in the correct manner to the courts could lead to criminals being back on the streets and to a victim left without justice.
So far 71 cases of policing failure have been reported to the provincial SAPS management, with 44% of these cases reinstated on the court roll for perpetrators to face their day in court.
Honourable Speaker, it needs to be made crystal clear, however, that the Western Cape Government is intent on ensuring that the SAPS provide a quality service to the people of this province.
That is why we take our constitutionally mandated oversight role serious in this province, and why we will continue to hold the police to account, but have also proactively worked to help ensure a better relationship is being fostered between communities and the police.
The work that the policing complaints directorate has done over the past couple of years is now being strengthened by the establishment of the Western Cape Provincial Police Ombudsman. The office, which has been made possible by the Western Cape Community Safety Act (No.3 of 2003), has the legislative mandate to assist and investigate complaints received from the public about police inefficiency and/or any breakdown in relationship that can occur between the police and a community.
The Office of the Ombudsman gives a voice back to those who have been muted on poor policing service delivery and has the legislative support to ensure that our communities’ voices are heard on their safety concerns.