Minister Mthethwa is the biggest roadblock to effective policing in the Western Cape

Dan Plato MPP

Western Cape Minister of Community Safety

While people are being killed the National Minister of Police is playing politics. It is utterly disgusting and totally inappropriate that the National Minister would use the death of police officers for electioneering purposes.

The constitution entitles provinces to conduct oversight over the police, but every attempt being made by the Western Cape Government to improve policing through oversight has been blocked, undermined, and prevented by the ANC national government. On top of this no new police officers have been hired in the Western Cape in the past few years, leaving fewer police officers to deal with an increasing population – this is what is making police vulnerable to attacks.

The Commission of Inquiry into policing in Khayelitsha, the area in which two officers were tragically killed this weekend, came as a result of on-going vigilante killings. The aim is to improve police community relations and identify the root causes of the policing problems. Instead of working with the Commission, the national minister and provincial commissioner opposed it, and we were taken to court. The High Court ruled in our favour, but the National Minister then appealed and we are now waiting for the Constitutional Court to hear the matter so that we can get back to doing our job of oversight.

We passed the Community Safety Act to improve policing oversight in this province and to ensure a more effective police service – the National Minister has publicly opposed this.

I have repeatedly called for the specialised gang and drug police units to be re-instated. This has been identified as an official policing need and priority by the Western Cape Government to address the gang crisis on the Cape Flats. The National Minister and the Provincial Police Commissioner have prevented this from happening.

I have called for the army to patrol the gang affected areas of the Western Cape so that the police are freed to do their investigations, collect vital evidence and secure convictions for the gangsters. The National Minister denies this call while people are killed every other day on the Cape Flats. With little to no convictions for gang related murder in Hanover Park over a 5 year period it is simply outrageous that the Minster thinks the police have matters under control. However, in other provinces, the Minister has previously called for the army to deal with cash-in-transit heists.

The Minister is playing politics while people are being killed.

I recently released police to population ratios for the Western Cape – information sent to me by the Provincial Commissioner’s office – and the Commissioner accused me of lying. A day later he apologised, saying his office sent me the wrong information but still refuses to send me what he says is the right information. He also has not said what police management is doing to capacitate the officers on the ground – it is well known that the police management have not provided adequate resources to those crime affected areas where they are most needed.

What we need is for police management to urgently fix identified problems in policing in this province so that trust can be built up and faith restored in the police service. This will make the province safer for all citizens, including the police themselves.

What is needed to improve policing in the Western Cape –

•          Conviction rates:

Successful convictions are a key deterrent. The more likely a person is of being caught for a crime, the less likely they will commit a crime. Last year, we were informed that over a three year period zero convictions had been secured out of 87 cases of gang related murder and attempted murder cases in Hanover Park, which is one of the Cape’s gang hot-spots. The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development confirmed to Parliament an abysmal 11.8% conviction ratio for murder cases over a 5 year period in our worst gang-affected communities. The figures revealed that in almost 1 in 10 cases suspected murderers are not convicted for their crimes. These figures would explain why it appears that the gangsters are acting with impunity.

•          Specialised Units:

Solid, dedicated investigations are needed for specialised types of crimes such as gangs and drugs.  Specialised policing units are needed to curb gang and drug crimes with dedicated teams working solely on specific crime categories. These units have specialist skills and expertise with the capacity to build up intelligence. This kind of dedicated focus results in solid investigations that can be prosecuted and end in convictions.

•          Detectives:

Capacity and training are needed for detectives that are overburdened and under-trained. Well trained detectives that have workable caseloads will allow these men and women to properly investigate and detect crimes and drive up conviction rates. Examples of detectives sitting with 90 to 150 dockets per detective are simply unacceptable. A well trained detective core with sufficient capacity can drive up conviction rates.

•          Leadership:

The SAPS needs strong leadership and management, something the Minister has not given to date. Models of competence, integrity and leadership among SAPS top ranks are needed to take our men and women in blue towards a Police Service that is efficient, effective, respected and revered.