Western Cape Government Endorses the Reinstatement of Specialised Police Units
Media Statement by Dan Plato, Western Cape Minister of Community Safety
Last week, the Western Cape Government engaged with the National Planning Commission and responded to the National Development Plan: Vision 2030. This plan, set out for South Africa by President Jacob Zuma's Minister in the Presidency, Trevor Manuel, calls for the reinstatement of specialised police units in its chapter on building safer communities.
The National Development Plan clearly states that government should "re-establish specialised units, staffed with highly trained and professional police officers, to respond to changing crime trends".
This is something I have been calling for since my appointment as Minister of Community Safety. The Western Cape Cabinet has also endorsed the re-establishment of these units as a policing need and priority of the province, an official report which is given to the National Minister of Police. I have also personally informed the National Police Minister, Nathi Mthethwa, of this need.
I have now written to Minister Manuel, expressing my support for the NPC's call for specialised units to be reinstated. The advisory body that was set up by President Zuma to guide policy and development plans for our country has explicitly identified specialised policing as a means of making our communities safer. This is a clear departure from the former commissioner's (Jackie Selebi) policy to disband the units. I have now asked Minister Manuel to raise this matter with National Police Minister, Nathi Mthethwa, so that work can commence on implementing the National Development Plan's recommendation. The Western Cape, and indeed South Africa, will be a safer place once he does.
Specialised policing units have proven to be an effective strategy as they offer:
- Dedicated teams working solely on specific crime categories.
- Specialist skills and expertise needed to investigate, detect, arrest and ensure successful convictions.
- Detectives who have full knowledge of often complex legislation and what is often sophisticated organised crime.
- Specialised units are adaptable to changing environments and modus operandi and have the capacity to build up intelligence.
In December 2011, the National Minister of Police acknowledged that drug- and gang-related crime in the Western Cape needs urgent action and that intensified South African Police Service (SAPS) operations must address the violence. However, the minister did not commit to the reinstatement of specialised SAPS drug and gang units in the Western Cape. The increased gang activity, especially in Delft, Lavender Hill, Bonteheuwel, Hanover Park, and the spread of gangsterism into areas not previously associated with gangs, like Khayelitsha and Gugulethu, is clear evidence that despite the National Police Minister's assurance that "the increase in gang violence is a result of the efficiency of SAPS" and his call for urgent action to stem the gang violence, his inaction has paralysed the police who are losing the fight against gangs in the Western Cape. Drastic action needs to be taken. The drastic action is to listen to the National Planning Commission's advice that specialised units need to be reinstated; they are a clear step towards addressing the violence.
No matter how many interventions we have, and no matter how many programmes we introduce to fight gangsterism, we are fighting a losing battle until the National Minister of Police acknowledges the seriousness of the problem and reinstates the specialised units to ensure proper investigations and secure convictions for these crimes.
President Jacob Zuma, in his State of the Nation Address earlier this year, said the following, "we took a decision in 2009 to establish the National Planning Commission and asked them to produce a National Development Plan for the country, informed by the Constitution of the Republic." South Africa's Minister of Finance, Pravin Gordhan, also made reference to the NDP as a means towards solving South Africa's challenges.
If this plan is to have any meaning, Minister Manuel will convene an urgent meeting with Minister Mthethwa to reintroduce the specialised units before any more blood is spilled on our streets.
In December last year, the Cape Argus reported that Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa said the increased gang violence in the Western Cape was due partly to police "squeezing" the areas in which drugs were sold, leading to more competition between gangs. He said drugs had become less abundant and this was in part because of high police visibility, intelligence and police harassment of drug bosses.
Yet, in February this year, during a briefing on crime stats to parliament, Western Cape Police Commissioner, General Arno Lamoer, said, "The violent crime and the gangsterism in the Western Cape are all linked to one thing - drugs. If we can stop the drugs, crime will come down radically, and people will be safe." But continued to say that while the Western Cape police have seized drugs valued at almost R12 billion since April 2010, it is just the tip of the iceberg. The Western Cape had over 70 588 drug-related crimes reported in 2010/2011, which means this province accounts for more than half of all of South Africa's drug crimes. Clearly, there is no lack of drugs in our gang-affected communities, so the increase in gang activity is not due to police effectiveness.
The President, National Finance Minister and the body responsible for long-term vision and policy in the Presidency agree that the NDP is the way forward for our country. The document recommends the reinstatement of the specialised units. The Western Cape Cabinet has endorsed the reinstatement of specialised units. It is now time - reinstate the specialised police units.
Spokesperson for Minister Plato
Cell: 072 623 4499