Fighting Crime: We Can Only Win by Working Better Together
Joint Media Statement by Premier Helen Zille, Minister Dan Plato and Alderman JP Smith
We were very sad to hear of the latest flare-up of gang violence this past weekend when two children, six-year-old Leeana van Wyk and seven-year-old Liam Davids, were injured in a shooting in Hanover Park on Saturday, 15 September.
This incident has once again highlighted the ongoing problem of gang violence on the Cape Flats, especially in hotspot areas like Hanover Park and Lavender Hill. This problem escalated to crisis levels during the first half of the year when a serious spike in gang violence had resulted in 23 deaths by July. Seventeen of those fatalities were in Hanover Park and Lavender Hill alone. Many of the dead were innocent bystanders, caught in the crossfire.
On the basis of an assessment of the situation and consultation with members of the community and colleagues, I wrote to President Jacob Zuma on the 9th of July asking him to deploy SANDF members to Lavender Hill and Hanover Park to provide peace-keeping and visibility patrols to relieve the police and enable them to undertake their investigative work.
President Zuma declined my request for army deployment, stating in a letter received from his office on 15 August that “there is no need to employ members of the South African National Defence Force at this stage”. He wrote that, instead, the SAPS had adopted a five-point strategy to deal with the gang situation to increase police visibility and police capacity to undertake investigations.
I wrote back to the President on 22 August requesting that he provide the Western Cape Government with a copy of the detailed implementation plan and timelines for a new strategy as a matter of urgency. Specifically, I requested information on the number of additional members that would be added to the Crime Intelligence Division and precisely what additional expertise would be brought in. We also reiterated our repeated calls for the re-establishment of the specialised gang and drug units. I also expressed grave concern that the Western Cape had been allocated the lowest number of public order police, pro rata, in the country despite the major challenges of gang violence.
To date, I have received no response from the President or his office to my request for this information.
The fact is the response by SAPS to the ongoing gang violence and murders has to date been inadequate. Some examples include:
- Very poor conviction rates in gang-affected areas and especially Hanover Park. There is an average of only 12.7% of murder cases ending in a conviction over a five-year period for Hanover Park, Lavender Hill, Elsies River, Manenberg, Bishop Lavis.
- 84% of murder and attempted murder cases originating from five gang hotspots in the Western Cape end in acquittals.
- A refusal by the SAPS to reinstate the specialised gang and drug policing units.
Our concern has been heightened by a court judgment forwarded to Minister Dan Plato by a regional court magistrate regarding poor investigation by a police reservist that resulted in three accused murderers and suspected gangsters getting off the hook.
Powers and Responsibilities of the Three Spheres of Government
Both the Western Cape Government and the City of Cape Town are doing everything within our limited powers and more to address the high instances of violent crime, including gang violence in the province.
However, it is critical that the national government also plays the role required of them by the Constitution. To be clear - the Criminal Justice System, including crime investigation, prosecution and convictions are the responsibility of national government (SAPS, NPA, Justice and Constitutional Development and Correctional Services).
The Western Cape Government has a constitutional obligation to “monitor police conduct, oversee the effectiveness and efficiency of the police service, including receiving reports on the police service; and to promote good relations between the police and the community”.
While the City of Cape Town’s Metro Police, in terms of the SAPS Act, is responsible for traffic policing, the policing of municipal by-laws and regulations and the prevention of crime.
You can download the Processes in the Criminal Justice System document.
Western Cape Government and City of Cape Town Initiatives
The Western Cape Government and the City of Cape Town are working together to fulfil their constitutional mandates.
The Western Cape Government is seeking to fulfil its “oversight” functions to improve effectiveness and efficiency within the SAPS by:
- The Community Safety Bill - which has now been submitted to the Legislature. This Bill seeks to define oversight, empower the DOCS to implement it and provides a framework for its implementation. Amongst other things, the Bill proposes a Provincial Police Ombudsman to investigate service delivery complaints against the police and that mandatory reports be submitted by municipal police chiefs and the provincial commissioner on matters that include police firearm losses, deaths in custody, deaths of and caused by police officers.
- Developing a database of provincial murder statistics by collating information received from mortuaries. This will allow us to work with “real time” murder statistics rather than retrospective annual crime statistics.
- Instituting “watching briefs” at courts to identify systemic failures in the system (such as evidence gathering), with a particular focus on gang-related crimes. Watching briefs are undertaken either by trained legal experts in the department or university postgraduate law students. They attend court cases, observe and report on the proceedings.
- Researching and expanding the “Policing Needs and Priorities Report” as the basis for determining the policing requirements of the province, as required by Section 206 of the Constitution. This report provides a crucial benchmark to measure the police plan for the province determined by the national minister and to guide our oversight interventions.
Both the Western Cape Government and the City of Cape Town have also pooled resources in order to make a difference when it comes to gang violence and making our communities safer through those factors we can influence.
Examples of some of our interventions created through this partnership include:
- The Ceasefire pilot project in gang hotspot areas.
- The Chrysalis Academy, 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.
- Stakeholder forums with national government, the Western Cape Government and communities to tackle local problems.
- The appointment of three field workers to conduct specialised youth programmes at identified schools and increase capacity within the province.
- The deployment of 706 school safety volunteers at 196 high-risk schools and improved monitoring of such situations.
- The expanded Partnership Programme with Community Police Forums aimed at strengthening their civilian oversight role and their sustainability. As part of our oversight reforms, we have developed a pilot web-based Community Safety Expanded Partnership Programme (CSEPP) where community police forums will be tasked with visiting police stations on a regular basis and will supply the department with accurate, verifiable information.
- The Safety Lab is an "ideas lab" that will identify, develop, evaluate, modify and test innovative safety and security solutions applicable to the Western Cape. It is an experimental, operationally independent venture focused on reducing opportunities for crime through involving the "whole of society" (ie Mobilising government, civil society and the private sector) in coming up with innovative solutions.
We are also putting pressure on national government departments to make more concerted efforts to combat gangsterism. We are doing this through:
- Our call for specialised gang and drug units, endorsed by Cabinet, in terms of section 206 (1) of the Constitution as a policing need and priority of the Western Cape. Also endorsed by the National Planning Commission in the National Development Plan. Specialised policing units have proven to be an effective strategy as they offer: dedicated teams working solely on specific crime categories, specialist skills, including detectives who have full knowledge of complex legislation and the expertise needed to investigate, detect, arrest and ensure successful convictions and are adaptable to changing environments and modus operandi and have the capacity to build up intelligence.
- We are asking Minister Radebe to appoint Justices of the Peace, who have an important role as they can assist with alleviating the high workload facing the courts by issuing warrants of arrest, search warrants, and, by taking confessions admissible in court from persons suspected of having committed serious crimes;
- And as already been mentioned – Premier Helen Zille has requested President Zuma to employ the SANDF in order to provide support to the SAPS in stabilising violent gang areas.
Improving safety is not the responsibility of one governmental department or organisation; it is the responsibility of the whole of the society. It is critical that communities, NGOs, SAPS, security organisations and the three spheres of government all work together.
Operating in silos will not win the war against crime. Co-operation is the key and it is only through pro-active and innovative partnerships that we can stop this violence and the loss of innocent lives and bring criminals to book for their crimes.
Zak Mbhele – Spokesperson for Premier Helen Zille
Tel: 021 483 4584
Cell: 083 600 2349
Spokesperson for Minister Dan Plato
Tel: 021 483 3873
Cell: 072 623 4499