The war on crime is far from over

Anthony Benadie MPL

Provincial Leader – Mpumalanga

Note: The following address was made by Anthony Benadie during the Policy and Budget debate of the Department of Community Safety, Security and Liaison. Budget vote 9.

During the 2011/12 financial year, 163 756 incidents of crime took place in Mpumalanga. Of these, over 37 000 were contact crimes, over 36 000 were property related crimes and over 31 000 were other serious crimes. These statistics are hair-raising, and reflective of a society plagued by crime. In reality, the question is not if you will be affected by crime, but when will you be affected by crime.

And, despite the best attempts by the ANC government to convince South Africans that they are winning the war against crime, the statistics speak otherwise: while contact crime is down, property-related crime is up, while contact-related crimes are down, crimes heavily dependent on police action is up, while other serious crimes is down, crimes forming part of aggravated robbery is up.

Honourable Speaker, while at least four crime categories recorded decreases in incidents, these were marginal (ranging from 1% to 6%), while those categories which recorded increases in incidents, were significant (ranging from 3,2% to 34%).

This is simply unacceptable and one has to turn to leadership of government to ask why, given all the evidence of criminal activity, no decisive action is forthcoming. The ANC’s lack of political will to deal with crime and to equip our officers with sufficient skill and resources, are turning our communities into safe havens for criminals and a battleground for civilian survival.

At the same time, we need to assess the current state of the South African Police Service. Our officers cannot fulfil their mandate in keeping our province’s people safe, with insufficient resources, too few vehicles, dilapidated vehicles, lack of firearms, too few officers and a depressing working environment characterised by work overload, dilapidated police stations, low salaries, inconsistent and slow promotions – with some officers having served in their current ranks for 20 years.

So too, the deteriorating internal discipline within the SAPS is having a crippling effect on dedicated officers. It is reported that many officers arrive at work when they like and leave when they like, while in some cases disciplinary procedures were riddled with cover-ups, based on who-know-who, with ordinary officers called upon to act as DC prosecutors.

Over 450 officers in our province do not possess a Grade 12 senior certificate. Many don’t have driver’s licenses, and frankly, too many officers are simply too lazy to care, adding tremendous stress and burden to those who are dedicated to their blue uniform.

But, despite dwindling morale, all is not lost.

Every day, hundreds of police and traffic office officers across our province brave dangerous and trying circumstances to catch criminals and keep us safe. To them we say “Thank You”. We recognise your sacrifice and we treasure your commitment. It is those officers that deserve our attention, energy and support.

It is those officers to whom the DA’s vision for an effective and efficient police and traffic force is dedicated.

It is for them:

  • That we support higher salaries and better working conditions.
  • That we lead the drive for increased visible policing and reduced case-loads by reviewing the police / citizen ratio. The DA’s vision would not only see an additional 30 000 detectives countrywide, but 250 000 additional officers employed, trained and deployed on our streets.
  • That we champion the call for the reintroduction of specialised policing units: a narcotics unit to tackle the devastating surge of drug related crimes, a rural safety unit to tackle the orchestrated brutal attacks on farmers and residents of rural areas, and a child protection unit to remove those destroying the lives of our children from society.
  • We support the call for the speedy implementation of the 2011 agreement with the Safety and Security Sectoral Bargaining Council to incorporate administrative staff into the SAPS pay grade.
  • That we believe in the depoliticising of the force and ensuring those in position of command are there by virtue of their sincere conviction for safety and security, and not political affiliation.
  • That we need immediate access to professional trauma counselling in times of need.
  • And it is for them that we hold a vision of a corruption free, independent and well resources force, dedicated to the personal security of every South African.

Honourable Speaker, it is true that despite being two very distinct forces, many of the challenges facing the SAPS are also faced by our traffic officers, including insufficient resources, poor salaries and corruption. The work done by our traffic officers is often unappreciated and many of them face hostile and agitated drivers on a daily basis – indeed no one enjoys those nervous moments of interaction with a traffic officer.

So, Honourable Speaker, let us recognise the work done by our traffic officers, the late nights, the long hours, the traffic law enforcement, the accident reaction and their visibility across the province. Indeed their contribution is priceless and their presence essential, however, let me hasten to say that no degree of officer brutality can or should be tolerated. It does not matter what colour you beret is or how wrong a motorist is, you are leaders in uniform, ambassadors of our province, and nothing can justify the unnecessary use of excessive force against a member of the public.

Honourable Speaker, the disappearance of TMT (Traffic Management Technologies) from our province is not only a victory for every motorist, but every traffic officer as well.

Despite R91 million paid to TMT, still unaccounted for, their operations within the province threatened the job security of many officers and their modus operandi relegated many traffic officers to mere spectators in the key field of speed prosecution and traffic law enforcement. Honourable MEC, I sincerely hope that the rumoured negotiations to renew TMT’s contract is not true and that any intention to do so is abandoned. Cameras in bushes don’t make our roads safer, visible traffic officers, enforcing rules of the road do.

Honourable Speaker, crime is not an inescapable reality and road deaths are not a given. Let’s intensify our efforts to keep Mpumalanga’s citizens safe. We wish all our officers in blue and brown the very best. Take care of yourselves, be safe and stay alive!

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