Western Cape Cabinet Resolution on Police Under-resourcing | Western Cape Government


Western Cape Cabinet Resolution on Police Under-resourcing

10 October 2018


The following statement was delivered by Premier Helen Zille during a press briefing today, 10 October 2018. Premier Zille was accompanied by the following Cabinet Ministers:

Minister of Economic Opportunities, Alan Winde, Minister of Community Safety, Dan Plato, Minister of Human Settlements and Leader of Government Business, Bonginkosi Madikizela, Minister of Education, Debbie Schäfer and Minister of Health, Nomafrench Mbombo.


The Western Cape Cabinet has today resolved to send a set of urgent demands to Police Minister Bheki Cele on the crisis of police under-resourcing in the Western Cape, where the police to population ratio is on average one third lower than the rest of the country.  The greatest crisis is experienced at stations in precincts with the highest crime rate.

As a provincial government we have stretched our Constitutional powers of oversight to their limits, and supported SAPS through successful community partnerships in crime prevention where we have a constitutional mandate to act.

This includes the establishment of the O Regan/Pikoli Commission and the implementation of its recommendations by us, the promulgation of the Community Safety Act (which defined our oversight functions) and the creation of the Western Cape Ombudsman.

More recently, our initiatives have focused on specialised support to Neighbourhood Watches, Community Policing Forums, funding for School Resource Officers, strategic safety partnerships with the religious fraternity and various programmes aimed at our youth.

In addition, we have committed resources to supporting the police in trying to secure safety on our rail network through the establishment of a Rail Enforcement Unit, jointly funded by the Province, City and Prasa.

We have now analysed the 2018 crime stats in detail.  It is clear that our efforts to support SAPS are working. This is evident in the reduction in the categories of crime where community partnerships can have a significant impact, for example the 6,8% decrease in property-related crime. 

There was also a significant 23% increase in arrests over the same period, which is partly a result of increased willingness by the community to help and support the police in detecting criminals.

The City of Cape Town annual statistics also show that the City's municipal law enforcers arrested more than 12 000 people in the last year - 17% more than in 2016.  This is very significant, but it must be stressed that the metro police mandate extends only to arrests. Investigations and convictions remain the domain of SAPS and the criminal justice system.

The statistics also show that the categories of crime that increased are murder (up 12,6%) and attempted murder (up 9,2%).  Of all murders, 22% are gang-related. 

These crime categories are not conducive to significant reduction through community involvement.  It requires a resource-intensive response from SAPS as the temporary deployment of base camps in the hardest hit areas demonstrates.  This underscores the need for a permanent presence, through higher levels of resourcing. 

This is the reason we have consistently called for the re-instatement of specialised units, and the deployment of the SANDF in the hardest hit areas.

The greatest deterrent to crimes in these categories is high conviction rates.  It is the unique responsibility of SAPS to investigate crime, gather evidence and present it to a court of law in a way that can secure convictions.

Conviction rates for gang-related crime, for example, are as low as 2% in some precincts and there is a 0% conviction rate for rail arson which, since 2015 has accounted for the loss of 175 rail carriages.

This is currently one of the weakest links in the criminal justice chain, and it is where the shortage of police personnel has the greatest impact.  This is why it is so critical to ensure that the police are adequately resourced, and that vacancies are filled.

It is our considered conclusion that the effectiveness of the police service, in the combatting of certain crime categories and communities in the Western Cape, is currently below the threshold of service required of SAPS in terms of section 205 of the Constitution.

One of the central reasons for this is the consistent under-resourcing of SAPS personnel in the Western Cape – at visible policing level, in crime intelligence, in detective expertise, and in public order policing. In our view this is the major factor which has resulted in the disastrous crime statistics, once again. 

The need to address our under-resourcing crisis has been confirmed by the Public Service Commission recently. The crisis is exacerbated by the lack of uptake or retention of police reservists, coupled with the huge spike in violent attacks to both our transport infrastructure and with respect to land occupations. This has left SAPS personnel in this province overwhelmed and demoralised.

In a letter issued to Police Minister Cele following today’s unanimous Cabinet resolution, we make these key demands:

  • That the Police Minister makes an urgent allocation of additional policing personnel to the Western Cape via a supplementation of the Fixed Establishment of policing posts in the province in terms of our rights under section 206 of the Constitution.
  • Confirmation by the National SAPS Commissioner that the “critical posts” referred to by the PSC in its report will be filled within 6 months. Further, that the allocation of these additional personnel both critical and otherwise) will be focused on addressing this province’s needs and priorities ie. gang-related crime; Rail safety; Ongoing attacks on schools; the protection of infrastructure and essential services such as Emergency Medical Services (EMS); and public order policing
  • Confirmation by the Police Minister that he will support the Western Cape Government’s offer to fund the uptake by SAPS of additional policing reservists to further bolster SAPS’s resources in this Province, and to agree to the offer made for the Province’s 84 000 employees to take up administrative relief work at identified stations in support of SAPS’ personnel. 

We are committed to continuing doing everything in our constitutional mandate to support the SAPS and national government in their operational mandate for the prevention of crime and policing under the Constitution.

Province’s support to SAPS

The Provincial Government continues to push the limits of its oversight mandate, and promotes a Whole of Society approach to community safety.

In summary, our more recent efforts in this regard include:

  • A total of 231 Neighbourhood Watch structures with a vetted membership of 16 400 members will have been accredited by the current financial year. This is a unique approach that ensures training, resources and support to communities.  The project has gained the full support of SAPS at both national and provincial level.
  • The Department further supports the work of the Community Policing Forums through the Expanded Partnership Programme (EPP) to produce oversight information that is helpful to SAPS. R3.2 million is allocated to support CPFs through the payment for performance model in 2018/19.
  • The Chrysalis Academy – supported by the Community Safety Department - trains 640 youth annually and our FET College partnership has afforded more than 1 000 youth the opportunity of furthering their education. The Academy has now achieved full SETA accreditation for all its programmes. Graduates are directed towards year-long employment opportunities in the community and crime prevention organisations funded through the EPWP programme.
  • Our R22 million partnership with Religious Fraternity to subsidise youth programmes has over the last 6 years benefited more than 100 000 kids during the school holiday period
  • We have launched “Walking Busses” in more than 75 areas, partnering with more than 222 schools. More than 2 000 parents and volunteers are actively involved in the safety of their children as they travel to and from school. In the year to come we will launch 25 new Walking Busses in communities across the province including Harare, Makhaza, Marikana, Wallacedene, Zwelethemba, De Doorns, Vredendal, Lutzville, Vredenburg, St. Helena Bay, Klapmuts, Vissershok and Heideveld.
  • The Province makes an annual transfer payment to the City of Cape Town for the establishment of 10 “Safe Zones” in and around 14 priority schools in areas, including Manenberg, Lingelethu-West, Belhar, Delft, Ravensmead, Hanover Park and Bonteheuwel. This funding supports the deployment of four School Resource Officers (SROs) and Neighbourhood Safety Officers (NSOs) at high risk schools between 07:00 and 22:00 daily. Our Safe Schools call centre is available to all schools in need.
  • The Department of Transport and Public Works has committed its R16 million share towards the training of 100 Rail Safety Officers, in collaboration with the City and PRASA
  • Our Community Safety department leads the Alcohol Harms Reduction (AHR) Game Changer. Alcohol, in particular, has been found to be a contributing factor to interpersonal violence in our province. A specific focus is placed on delivering its basket of services in the identified high risk pilot sites of Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Nyanga and Paarl East. Over the past year, the AHR initiative has seen the installation of eight (8) high-mast CCTV cameras in Town Two, supported by 12 new City of Cape Town law enforcement officers. In a recent community survey, a total of 74% of respondents in Khayelitsha Town 2 say that their neighbourhood is a better, and safer place to live compared to a year ago.
  • Our Court Watching Briefs Units monitors the courts for instances of breakdowns in the criminal justice pipeline. In many instances cases are kept on the roll due to these efforts. In 2017/18 we monitored 3 269 cases in 40 courts across the province
  • Under the Community Safety Act, we created the WC Police Ombudsman to give effect to Constitutional responsibility to deal with complaints of poor service delivery or poor relations between police and SAPS. Since its inception in January 2015, the office received a total of 1614 complaints as at July 2018. It has finalized 1061, with the remainder under investigation.
  • The Community Safety Department conducts frontline service inspections through its own inspection units. In total, 150 police stations are inspected or observed on an annual basis.

Crime Reality

Despite all of these efforts, there remains an intractable problem with those categories of crime that require a specialised policing response, and proper resourcing of the SAPS.

The Western Cape Government’s analysis of the 2017/18 Crime Statistics has reached the following conclusions:

  • 83% (808) of all gang-related murders in South Africa (973) are recorded in the Western Cape.
  • 45% of murders in the Western Cape occur in the 26 gang related stations.
  • 56.5% of attempted murders in the WC are in the 26 gang affected stations.
  • 57% of firearm related offences in the WC are in the gang stations.
  • 44.3% of drug related offences are in the gang stations.
  • Murder in Philippi East precinct has increased by 180% over the five-year period from 2013/14 to 17/18, and by 36,7% in the last financial year.

The crime stats further confirm that the Western Cape has 36% of all drug related crime in the country, and the highest increase of 9.1% overall in this category.

This Province also has 12 of the top 30 stations in the country for attempted murder, with 8 of these also appearing in the top 30 stations for murder. The country’s highest increase in illegal possession of firearms and ammunition (16.8%) was recorded in the Western Cape. Violent protests and land invasions are also sharply increasing and year-on-year there was a 53% increase in the number of land invasions recorded and a 249% increase in the number of protests.

Yesterday, the province was impacted by its 40th train burning incident since 2015, bringing the total number of destroyed carriages to 175. SAPS recently revealed that they have made only two arrests and gained zero convictions related to these incidents.

Commuters have also faced direct safety risks. Between 2015 and 2017, 32 murders and 114 incidents of assaults were reported on trains or in stations in the province, with only 12 arrests for murders and 59 arrests for assaults.

In 2014, over 608 000 people used trains daily in Cape Town. By 2017 this number dropped by over 60% to approximately 200 000 commuters using trains on a daily basis. Use of the Metrorail service has declined in the last 4 years, showing a direct link between the dysfunctional rail system and congestion on our roads.

It is clear that crime has a negative impact on the economy, it reduces productivity and perceptions of crime play a role in whether investors choose to invest in our region or not.

But crime doesn’t just affect existing businesses- it impacts those wishing to start a new business too. According to the Stats SA victims of crime survey, which gauges people’s perceptions of crime, 12.1% of South Africans were discouraged from starting a home business because of crime in their area.

The impact is felt in tourism as well. A cursory poll of tourists by the Western Cape Government found that 42% of respondents rule out a holiday destination because of a perception of crime.

Tourists spend between R20 and R30 billion per year in the province, therefore, even a one percent drop in visitor numbers due to perceptions of crime could cost the economy R200 million a year. This has an impact on our ability to create and sustain jobs in this important industry.

Police Under-resourcing Crisis

From our analysis of crime statistics, it is evident that where crime is highest, police are most under-resourced.  The average police to population ratio for the City of Cape Town is 1 policeman per 560 residents, and the ratio for the Western Cape is 1 to 509.   These figures exclude specialized units. This is well below the national average of 1 to 369. This also means that over the past two years, the Western Cape Provincial ratio has deteriorated from one police officer to every 385 people, down to one police officer to every 509 people.

In Cape Town, these numbers are even worse. In 2016, there was one police officer for every 439 people. In 2018, that number has risen to 560. This means in the Western Cape each officer is now serving an average of 124 more residents than in 2016.

The average police to population ratio for the stations with the highest counts of murder and attempted murder in this province are all far beyond the national average and include:

•          Nyanga – 1 per 628;

•          Philippi East – 1 per 344;

•          Delft – 1 per 642;

•          Khayelitsha – 1 per 521;

•          Kraaifontein – 1 per 609;

•          Gugulethu – 1 per 590;

•          Mfuleni – 1 per 529;

•          Harare – 1 per 745;

•          Mitchells Plain – 1 per 472;

•          Bishop Lavis – 1 per 442.

Further facts uncovered during the course of oversight by the Province and other stakeholders, includes:

  • In 2008, the Western Cape had 5059 active reservists. This number has dwindled to 829, which according to the latest figures is an 84% decline in the number of active reservists. The latest provincial SAPS Annual Report also shows that only 162 reservists were recruited by the SAPS in the Western Cape during 2017/18 – on average only 1 reservist per station in the province. The Western Cape places 5th on the number of reservists recruited with KwaZulu-Natal managing to recruit 548, Gauteng 317, Limpopo 260 and Eastern Cape 248.
  • Over the 3-year Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) period, the overall number of police personnel in South Africa are set to reduce by 3000, from 194 431 to 191 431.
  • The Provincial SAPS Annual Report for 2012/13 indicated total SAPS personnel in the province to be 21 056. The latest national Report for 2017/18 indicates that, as of 1 April 2018, SAPS had 1000 less personnel in the province – putting the figure at 20 006
  • Low reservist numbers place major additional administrative burdens on policing personnel. Detective caseloads remain overly high due to the lack of human resources allocated to each station. This hampers investigations and the necessary crime intelligence to gain convictions.

Efforts to engage SAPS and National Government

The Western Cape has a long history of fighting for the necessary policing resources, with extensive efforts made by the Province, City, civil society and communities.

These include:

  • The Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry established by Premier Zille in 2014. Amongst many key recommendations, was the instruction for SAPS to change the model by which Human Resources are allocated to police stations
  • The Annual Policing Needs and Priorities Reports submitted to national government by our Community Safety department, in consultation with communities
  • The Public Hearings conducted in 2017 into police under-resourcing by Provincial Parliament’s Standing Committee on Community Safety. These hearings gave communities a voice and uncovered shocking statistics such as 85% of all police stations being under-resourced, and the steep decline in reservist numbers
  • The subsequent Public Service Commission investigation into policing resources, which resulted in an instruction to SAPS to fill all critical vacancies on the fixed establishment within 6 months
  • A total of 12 formal demands by the Premier to the National Executive calling for the deployment of the SANDF as a peace-keeping measure to support SAPS
  • A recent high-level Western Cape Cabinet engagement with the provincial SAPS top brass to discuss key breakdowns in the criminal justice system

Demands Conclusion and Way Forward

One issue that stands central to all the investigations and research conducted in specifically the Western Cape, is the dissatisfaction regarding how SAPS allocates human resources – known as the Theoretical Human Resource Requirement model (THRR). As far back as the Khayelitsha Commission, it was found that this model has fundamental flaws.

In its findings, the Commission noted that:

“The THRR is not publicly available nor debated, even within SAPS or by the key oversight bodies, such as the national Parliament and the provincial legislature.”

Further that the data used to calculate the THRR was not necessarily accurate, and that environmental factors were not properly considered in allocating resources.

Little if anything has changed in this system, as is evident from the recent arguments presented by SAPS in the Equality Court matter on police resourcing.

I quote from these arguments:

“At its simplest, the system has been developed to calculate the number of posts per level required to perform the duties associated with police stations; referred to as the THRR; it represents the ideal number of employees to be placed at a specific station.

However, the number of posts allocated is not equal to the “ideal” and consequently allocated posts are equally distributed between all stations and referred to as “granted posts”.  The number of granted posts is ultimately determined based on the annual budget allocation and the consequent equal distribution to the ideal allocation.”

In both our 2017 Policing Needs and Priorities (PNP) submission to the National Minister of Police, and my letter to him today we recommend that both the theoretical model, and the fixed establishment system of allocation needs to be changed. This echoes the demands that were made by the Social Justice Coalition in the recent court case referred to above, on which we are still awaiting judgment.

The crime reality faced by all too many residents in the province needs to be taken into account. As do the uniquely high levels of gang-related crime, drug crime and others identified in the 2017 PNP report.

All the above is contained in the provincial Cabinet’s letter to Police Minister Bheki Cele and forms the basis for us demanding an urgent allocation of additional policing personnel to the Western Cape via a supplementation of the Fixed Establishment of policing posts in the province.

Our Reservist Plan is also on his desk awaiting approval for the Western Cape Government to fund additional police reservist activity.

In order to give effect to the offer, we require the necessary approval to transfer funds to National Treasury (on condition that it is ring-fenced for the specified Western Cape Reservist Project). The necessary delegation to the Provincial Commissioner is also required to be put in place.

We are further willing to galvanize our 84 000 public service employees to assist SAPS with administrative support at stations.

Finally, we are calling for the filling of all critical SAPS vacancies within 6 months, in line with the PSC recommendation.

Yesterday the National Minister reportedly announced that SAPS will reintroduce the Bambanani Programme with money that is earmarked for policing. This is “solving the wrong problem” and although we support the involvement of local community structures in working for safety, we cannot expect civilians without training or equipment to fight gangs or reduce murders.

We will continue to work with the Minister but call on him to rather direct the available funds to trained professional police officers and detectives. We will never stop fighting on behalf of all Western Cape communities who are living in fear and oppression by gangs and violent crime.


Media Enquiries: 

Marcellino Martin
Spokesperson for Premier Helen Zille
082 721 3362
021 483 4584