Gang Violence: Western Cape Government and City of Cape Town Intervene
Joint Statement by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and Executive Mayor of the City of Cape Town, Alderman Patricia De Lille
Today, we will be outlining what interventions the Western Cape Government and the City of Cape Town have implemented to address the gang violence crisis in the province.
We are committed to creating safe communities and we are intensifying our efforts within our limited powers to achieve this.
In recent months, we have seen a “spike” in gang violence in many hotspot areas, particularly Manenberg, linked to the recent release of gang leaders. Many of those who have been killed have been innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire between rival gang members.
It is clear that gang violence has reached a crisis point in Manenberg, which is now threatening education in the area. After meeting with these educators, both the City and the Province have introduced a plan to ensure the safety of learners and educators so that teaching and learning can continue from tomorrow.
We have also introduced broader programmes and interventions to address gang violence in all hotspot areas. But before we provide more details on these, it is important to set out what each sphere of government’s constitutional competencies are when it comes to law enforcement.
Constitutional Competencies of the Three Spheres of Government
Most importantly, the Criminal Justice System (the police, the prosecution authorities and the courts) is a national government competency. Both the provincial and local spheres have very limited scope when it comes to law enforcement.
The attached diagram shows the different roles and responsibilities each government department and institution have when it comes to dealing with crime. Most importantly, the South African Police Service (SAPS) has the primary mandate for policing across the country. This is crime prevention, crime detection, crime investigation and evidence gathering to secure successful prosecutions.
Both the Western Cape Government and the City of Cape Town have no powers when it comes to investigating crimes and securing convictions in a court of law. While we are doing everything possible to make communities safer through crime prevention programmes, we will never successfully tackle gang violence if the gang members responsible for violent acts and criminal behaviour are not brought to justice and put behind bars.
It is important that citizens know and understand the constitutionally-defined competencies of the three spheres of government so that they approach the correct authorities and hold them accountable for acting against crime in their communities.
Both the Western Cape Government and the City of Cape Town take our roles and responsibilities extremely seriously when it comes to increasing safety and in particular, tackling gang violence.
Western Cape Government’s Interventions
As already mentioned, the Western Cape Government’s role is confined to police oversight – we can monitor and assess the police and make recommendations to police management on systemic problems and failings.
We have repeatedly sought to work co-operatively with the SAPS because this is what the Constitution requires and offers the best chance of curbing gang violence. It is extremely unfortunate that instead of working in a co-operative partnership, the National Minister seems intent on preventing us from playing the required oversight role.
When we draw attention to systemic problems, we do so because it is the role given to us by Section 206 of the Constitution. The aim of this is to first, ensure that the people of the Western Cape receive better policing and second, to ensure that police officers on the ground are given the resources and training that they need in order to deliver this service.
Some of the interventions we have introduced to improve policing in the province include:
- Establishing a Commission of Inquiry into Policing in Khayelitsha: This was set up following on-going vigilante killings and a request from citizens and NGOs in the area to set up a commission to investigate complaints from the Khayelitsha community with a view to improve community-police relations. This has been opposed in court by Minister Mthethwa and despite the High Court ruling in our favour; the national Minister took this on appeal to the Constitutional Court, where the case was heard last week. Judgment is reserved.
- Passing the Western Cape Community Safety Act: This was drafted to improve how the Western Cape conducts oversight and to create frameworks for safety partnerships. This has been publicly opposed by Minister Mthethwa, who has indicated that there will be another court challenge to stop us implementing it.
- Policing Needs and Priorities: We have a constitutional duty to report the province’s policing needs and priorities to the National Minister of Police. We spend months meeting with communities across the Western Cape to find out what each specific community requires in terms of safety and what type of crime most affects those communities. This is sent to the National Minister to consider and to incorporate in the police policy for our province.
- The Expanded Partnership Programme: This is a partnership with Community Police Forums (CPFs) aimed at strengthening their civilian oversight role and their sustainability through funding for oversight work conducted on a local level.
Interventions Focused on Addressing Gang Violence
- Watching Briefs: These are undertaken either by trained legal experts in the department or university postgraduate law students who attend court cases, observe and report on the proceedings to identify systemic failures, with a particular focus on gang-related crimes.
- Partnerships: Minister Plato has forged some very meaningful partnerships with the religious community to divert youth away from a life of crime. We have provided funding for youth programmes over school holidays. Minister Plato has also partnered with FET colleges to offer bursaries to the youth in the most crime-affected areas to prevent today’s youth from becoming tomorrow’s gangsters.
- The Chrysalis Academy: Funded by the Western Cape Government, this is aimed at diverting youth-at-risk away from a life of crime and gangsterism by providing them with meaningful life skills courses, regular drug testing and anti-drug awareness programmes, as well as preparing them for employment.
- Calls for the reinstatement of specialised units: We have repeatedly called on the Provincial Commissioner and the Minister to reinstate the Specialised Drug and Gang Police Units, which achieved significant successes in the fight against gangs and drugs. (These units were originally disbanded by Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi to protect well-connected gang bosses.) However our calls for re-instatement of these units have been rejected because the Provincial Police Commissioner believes that the crime situation in the Western Cape is "under control" and advised the national Minister that specialised units are not necessary. Minister Mthethwa previously said, “I have been assured by the provincial commissioner that right now, there is no need for a gang unit”. If anything proves the contrary, it is the SAPS inability to curb the gang violence and protect the community.
- Deployment of the army: In this context, we have repeatedly requested President Zuma to employ the SANDF to stabilise gang hotspot areas so that police are freed up to investigate crimes and bring gang members to justice. These requests have been turned down. In response, the President stated that, after consulting with the National Ministers of Police and Defence, “there was no need to employ members of the South African Defence Force. The South African Police Service had the necessary capacity to deal with the situation in these areas”.
City of Cape Town’s Interventions
The City of Cape Town has intensified its interventions in Manenberg on the Cape Flats with the recent upsurge in gang violence in the area and the forced temporary closure of 16 schools.
The City of Cape Town’s Metro Police have the power to conduct searches and make arrests. However, they cannot investigate a crime and refer it to the public prosecutor so criminals can be convicted and sent to prison. This competency rests with the SAPS.
Since 1 August, the City of Cape Town’s Safety and Security directorate has, in Manenberg:
- Conducted 50 operations
- Confiscated five firearms and ammunition
- Made 19 drug related arrests
- Searched 80 premises
- Searched 33 vehicles
- Searched 613 people
- Made 15 non-drug related arrests
- Issued 621 traffic fines
There are currently 43 Metro Police and Traffic officers deployed in Manenberg. These will be increased by 71 from tomorrow for two weeks. These officers will be withdrawn from service elsewhere.
Despite having a total complement of only 700 dedicated to crime prevention personnel, we recognise that we must do everything we can to tackle this upsurge in Manenberg gang activity. However, due to the small scale of the City’s resources, this prioritisation happens at the expense of law enforcement in other areas.
It is unclear at this stage whether SAPS have allocated additional police officers. We will continue to appeal to the SAPS to deploy additional resources to Manenberg, particularly during this increasingly violent time.
In addition to the above-mentioned interventions, the Western Cape Government will allocate R6 million to the City to be spent on stabilisation efforts over the next three months. This budget will have to be diverted from other priorities in education.
The City of Cape Town, together with the Western Cape Government, met with residents in Manenberg on Thursday evening to discuss new steps that could be taken to meet the safety concerns of the educators of shut schools.
The educators expressed two main concerns – their safety when travelling to and from schools, and ongoing violence and shootings just outside the school premises.
Both the City and the Province have put forward a proposal that focuses on safe access in and out of Manenberg and the protection of the schools.
The City of Cape Town will deploy additional Metro law enforcement staff in Manenberg to be divided between schools during school hours and along the access routes both before and after school.
“Safe movement corridors” will be created for educators where there will be high law enforcement presence and the security needs of each of the schools will be identified. These will be re-opening tomorrow.
Apart from the enforcement, Neighbourhood Safety Officers (NSO) and School Resource Officers (SROs) have also been deployed at seven schools situated in the proximity of hotspot locations in Manenberg. Learners at some of the deploying schools have also engaged in drug awareness presentations by the NSOs and members of the K-9 unit.
Schools where NSOs and RSOs are deployed are:
- Sonderend Primary School
- Silverstream High School
- Edendale Primary School
- Downsville Primary School
- Manenberg High School
- Rio Grande Primary School
- Red River Primary School
We are also in the process of finalising plans to extend the Ceasefire project to Manenberg to enhance our ongoing interventions to prevent gang prevent violence in the area. The Ceasefire project has succeeded in reducing the rate of gang-related murders and attempted murders in Hanover Park by at least 50% over the last six months (compared to the first six months of the each of the previous years).
We believe that the introduction of this project in Manenberg will go a long way in reducing the level of gang violence there.
In addition to this, we are well on track to roll out the implementation of the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) to improve safety and the overall quality of life in that community.
With regard to the City’s operations in the area, we have also evicted a number of suspected prominent gang members from City-owned rental properties.
These include the eviction of Shawn Malan, who is allegedly the gang leader for the Ugly Americans gang, at 100D Sonderend Road, for selling drugs from the premises.
We have also evicted Richard Baartman, who is linked to the Hard Livings Gang, from 37B Manenberg Avenue for conducting criminal activities, including the sale of drugs on council property.
These follow the earlier evictions of Charles De Bruin and Romeo Petersen, both allegedly with strong ties to the Ugly Americans, for council property 4A Seine Road.
We will continue to use all the resources we have to assist in making the area of Manenberg safe for the families that live there.
The City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Government is doing everything we can within our limited competencies to address this crisis but it is clear that the SAPS is struggling to control the situation.
The South African Police Service’s Failure to Deal With Gang Violence
Last year, President Zuma wrote to me in response to my call to use the army as a peace-keeping force during a spike in gang violence, informing me that the police had adopted a comprehensive five-point strategy to deal with gang violence. The provincial government has repeatedly asked the President and Minister Mthethwa to provide details of this plan but to date have not received this information.
When we have asked for specialised gang units to be reinstated and the SANDF to be deployed in hotspot areas, we have been told by President Zuma and Minister Mthehtwa that there is no need for these interventions because the SAPS had the necessary capacity to deal with gang violence.
However, the poor conviction rate in gang hotspot areas suggests otherwise (see table below). For example, between 2007 and 2011, there were 115 murders in Manenberg, while the conviction over the same period was only 25%. This means that three out of every four murders did not result in a person being put behind bars.
The Western Cape Government’s watching briefs have also revealed that some cases have been compromised because the investigating officer did not arrive at court, or did not have the necessary evidence with them. There was even a case where the SAPS transported a witness and the offender in the same van, which resulted in the witness changing his statement and allowing the offender to walk free.
Police-population ratios are also cause for serious concern. Resources are not aligned to where they are most needed and communities that are most affected by crime and violence are the ones that have a shortage of officers. According to information from SAPS, Manenberg’s ratio of officers to population is three times less than the provincial norm (1:800).
This is the reason why the City of Cape Town has had to step in and employ more Metro officers in Manenberg at the expense of law enforcement in other areas.
It is clear that the Western Cape Government and the City of Cape are doing everything it can to address gang violence but we do not have the power to investigate crimes and put criminals behind bars. Only the SAPS has this power.
What we now ask is for SAPS management to join us and do their part. It is clear that police officers in gang hotspot areas are overwhelmed and need support.
The management of the SAPS needs to implement the necessary interventions to capacitate officers, train them, establish specialised units, and ensure that there are enough police officers in crime ridden areas to tackle gang violence and keep our streets safe.
We also repeat our calls for President Zuma to authorise the employment of the SANDF in gang hotspot areas in accordance with Section 201 (2) of the Constitution read with Section 19 (1) of the Defence Act 42 of 2002.
We are not requesting a permanent deployment, but in this spike of gang violence, which we have been informed may be connected with the recent release of a senior gang leader from prison, we urgently need a peace-keeping force to free the police up for their urgent duty of collecting evidence, effecting arrests and ensuring convictions in court.
Premier Zille will be discussing all of these matters with Police Minister Mthethwa in their meeting on Thursday to ensure that the residents of Manenberg, and more broadly in the Western Cape, are kept safe.
If we hope to tackle this crisis, every role player needs to fulfil the duties and responsibilities required of them.
|Murders||Cases||Persons arrested||Persons Bail||Convictions||% Convictions vs Murders||Cases withdrawn|
|Lavender Hill (Steenberg)||72||17||37||5||2||3%||1|
|Hanover Park (Phillipi)||95||57||72||53||18||19%||3|