Media Statement: Premier Questions Gang Conviction Rate Below 1%
Premier Zille Questions Gang Conviction Rate Below 1% in Mitchells Plain
The conviction rate for gang-related crimes in the Mitchells Plain Magistrate’s Court is now just 0.7%.
This information was released by the Western Cape Government in a recent parliamentary reply by Safety MEC Dan Plato. While policing and prosecutions mandates both rest with national government, the province is using its oversight mandate to monitor police conduct at prosecutions stage in Western Cape courts.
The 0.7% gang crime conviction rate is an average over the last two years, ending April 2016.
“The convictions crisis is a sign of a dysfunctional criminal justice system. We are calling on SAPS, the National Prosecuting Authority and the Justice Department to bring an end to this national disgrace,” said Premier Helen Zille.
“As it stands, the chances of anyone going to jail for gang-related crime is close to zero in Mitchells Plain, the province’s number one precinct for violent crime, drug trafficking, and illegal possession of fire-arms.”
The near zero conviction rate in Mitchells Plain is in line with past stats showing a province-wide conviction rate for gang-crime of below 2% between 2012 and 2014. SAPS has said gang crime was linked to 28.5% of all murders and attempted murders provincially in 2014/15.
Gang violence has raged on in a climate of no consequences, with the indiscriminate shooting of innocent bystanders rising by 50% last year. There were a total of 466 victims, according to the latest SAPS annual report.
Zille said the provincial government had witnessed an outpouring of concern from residents during its latest round of consultations with communities in every policing precinct. Acting on behalf of residents, the provincial government makes an annual submission to the national SAPS and Police Ministry on the province’s policing needs and priorities.
“Given the scale of human tragedy suffered by residents of gang-affected precincts, it is no wonder that 65% of Western Cape residents told us they have no confidence in the criminal justice system,” Premier Zille said.
In the past year, the provincial government’s Court Watching Briefs unit alerted the Provincial Commissioner to more than 117 serious cases, removed from the court rolls largely due to police inefficiencies. The cases included murder, attempted murder, rape and possession of drugs and fire-arms.
Zille said that the province was expanding the unit to 25 courts this year, including Mitchells Plain.
Three main causes of low conviction rates have been identified by the unit, run by the Community Safety Department:
- Failure by the Investigating Officer to finalise the investigation within a reasonable time
- Neglecting to have the police docket at court
- Failure of the Investigating Officer to subpoena witnesses to attend court
“It is quite clear to us that the recent conviction of 28’s gang boss George Geweld Thomas was an exception, not the rule. While the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA) is, in theory, an excellent piece of legislation for getting convictions, SAPS are simply too under-resourced to do their jobs properly, both in and out of court,” said Zille.
There are 438 residents to 1 police officer in Mitchells Plain, according to SAPS figures provided to the provincial government. The precinct has the highest rates of gang-related crime in the province, but 20% less police officers than the average South African community.
“We are in touch with Mitchells Plain residents, and have brought together a broad coalition of people committed to safety. They have the potential to be a powerful support system for SAPS, if the area can be properly resourced with more trained officers,” said Zille.
The provincial government currently has 110 safety partners in Mitchells Plain registered on its safety department’s Community Organisation Database. This includes a partnership with 11 faith based organisations, with an investment of R250 000 into their youth safety programmes during the two major school holidays last year.
The province is also providing essential equipment and training to Neighbourhood Watches, and working with 42 schools where School Safety Marshals are deployed.
“The community is ready to make a difference, but they need the support of a strong criminal justice system,” said Zille.