Minister Mthethwa Offers No Policing Solutions to Gang Violence
Statement by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille
On Thursday, 22 August 2013, I met Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, accompanied by Western Cape Community Safety Minister Dan Plato, Cape Town Executive Mayor Patricia de Lille and Mayoral Committee member for Safety and Security Alderman JP Smith, to discuss needed interventions to address drugs and gang violence in hotspot areas in Cape Town.
While the minister and I agreed broadly that a holistic approach is important, we differed on the role that the SAPS must play when it comes to tackling the crisis of gang violence in the province. The Western Cape Government maintains that gang violence spikes are a policing and security issue. Only SAPS has the power to undertake collecting evidence, affecting arrests and ensuring convictions in court.
We will never successfully tackle gang violence and make our communities safer if the gang members responsible for violent acts and criminal behaviour are not brought to justice and put behind bars. The low conviction rates in gang violence hotspots prove that the police are overwhelmed and need support.
We believe two critical interventions needed are re-establishing the specialised gang and drug police units, and the temporary deployment of the SANDF (South African National Defence Force) as a peacekeeping force so the police are freed up to investigate crimes and bring gang members to justice.
This is what we raised with Minister Mthethwa on 22 August 2013. He refused and said that the police are already doing what is necessary to tackle gang violence in the province, however he could not provide any solutions to address the current spike in gang violence or details of their gang strategy. Instead he argued that the main solution is to address “socioeconomic conditions”.
We agree with this, and we are very busy with this, but this is a medium- and long-term process and cannot deal with periodic “spikes” in gang violence that kill innocent by-standers. The Province only has oversight powers over the SAPS, and cannot undertake any of the crucial functions for which SAPS is responsible under the constitution and the law. We also have no mandate to instruct the SANDF to conduct peacekeeping patrols.
Western Cape Government Interventions to Address Gang Violence
The fact is the provincial government and the City of Cape Town are doing everything within their power to address the underlying causes of gang violence. These include:
- 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.
- The Expanded Partnership Programme: 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.
Western Cape Government Interventions to Address Substance Abuse
The Western Cape Department of Social Development is also implementing a comprehensive strategy to reduce substance abuse in the province, which includes the following interventions:
- Early/Brief Interventions: The Department of Social Development (DSD) has funded 31 NGOs to render services in early intervention, targeting 4 380 individuals and families during the past financial year. There has recently been an expansion of early interventions services linked to schools, targeting 320 learners identified with risky substance abuse behaviour.
As from this year, early intervention and short-term counselling programmes are also being introduced at DSD local offices in Athlone, Gugulethu, Wynberg and Mitchells Plain. These programmes utilise departmental social workers, who have undergone specialised postgraduate training in substance abuse treatment at the universities of Cape Town and Stellenbosch (courses which were initiated and funded by the Western Cape Department of Social Development).
The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) is also rolling out the drug testing policy to identified high-risk schools. There will be continued collaboration between WCED and DSD on the identification of learners with substance abuse-related risky behaviour in order to link them with early intervention programmes.
- Treatment centres: The department runs three public residential treatment centres with a joint treatment capacity for 1 200 adults and 280 youth between ages 12 and 18 years. In addition, the department also funds six NGO-run residential treatment centres with a joint treatment capacity of 657 adults and 150 youth per year.
The department also funds 16 community-based treatment programmes with a treatment capacity of 3 095 persons per annum. The Western Cape Department of Health has a dedicated heroin detoxification unit at Stikland Hospital and there is a close working relationship between the detoxification unit and various inpatient and community-based treatment facilities.
- Aftercare: The department renders aftercare and re-integration services through its 35 service delivery offices situated throughout province and we have also concluded 21 service contracts with NGOs to render aftercare services, with a total of 2 290 beneficiaries accessing from these services so far.
- Education and Awareness: A dedicated website (http://druginfo.westerncape.gov.za) was launched in 2011 and is constantly updated with information on where and how to access treatment and other services for drug- and alcohol- related harms. A hard copy of the substance abuse directory has recently also been updated and is being distributed to schools, magistrates, police stations, NGOs and libraries.
Drug education has also been mainstreamed into the Life Orientation teaching material for Grade 11 since the beginning of the 2013 academic year. This year we are targeting grades 7 and 9.
The Western Cape Department of Social Development, with the Department of Agriculture, reaches 4 250 educators and youth per year with programmes aimed at preventing Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, primarily run in rural areas and on farms.
City of Cape Town interventions
In addition, the City of Cape Town has implemented numerous initiatives within its competencies to address gang violence. While the City of Cape Town’s Metro Police have the power to conduct searches and make arrests, 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.
The City has implemented the following steps:
- The very successful VPUU programme in Khayelitsha has been extended into Hanover Park, Manenberg, Gugulethu and Nyanga, which sees huge financial investment in crime prevention through environmental design, developing infrastructure, community training and social investment in gang hotspots.
- 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 each of the previous years).
- The City has introduced specialised units such as the Gang Unit and Drug Unit working with K9 drug sniffer dogs. The Gang Unit has had an impressive record of arrests (with over 248 gang-arrest in 18 months) and confiscations of guns (nine firearms) and drugs (2 500 units of drugs).
- The School Resource Officer (SRO) programme has a dedicated Metro Police member in each of the six worst gang- ravaged schools to improve safety. The programme is supported by the Metro Police Youth Academy which had three camps in June 2013, targeting gang troubled schools and which will now be rolled out across the City in partnership with the WCED.
- The Neighbourhood Watch Support programme is training and resourcing neighbourhood watches and our Law Enforcement Auxiliary programme will allow communities to help themselves through the training and deployment of Law Enforcement Auxiliary members (reservists).
Over and above these interventions, the City has had to deploy additional personnel in Manenberg to deal with the major flare-up of gang violence in the area, which was putting educators and learners in the community most at risk. These officers have had to be withdrawn from service elsewhere. They had to step in and fulfil the peacekeeping role that we envisage the army to perform in gang hotspot areas. The fact is we do not have enough budget resources or personnel to perform this duty outside Manenberg.
It is clear that the Western Cape Government and the City of Cape are doing everything we 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 and that is why I asked for the meeting today with Minister Mthethwa. It is disappointing that the national minister dismissed our calls for the temporary deployment of the army as a peacekeeping force or the reintroduction of the specialised gang and drug units.
We believe that army deployment and increased police resources on the ground are the immediate solutions needed to tackle the current spike in gang violence. The Western Cape Government is doing everything to tackle the broader socioeconomic issues in communities within our competencies however these are only long-term interventions that cannot deal with the immediate crisis. Furthermore, they cannot be implemented while gang shootouts are killing innocent bystanders and paralysing communities.
The Western Cape Government is committed to working with other spheres of government, communities and civil society to bring down gang violence but a key pillar for any successful strategy is an effective criminal justice system where the police investigate, affect arrests and ensure convictions so that gang members responsible for violence are taken off our streets.