Whole of society responsible for our collective safety

Dan Plato, MPP

Western Cape Minister of Community Safety

Note: This extract is based on a speech delivered by Minister Dan Plato during the debate on the State of the Province Address at the Western Cape Provincial Parliament yesterday.

Over the past 5 years the Western Cape has worked better together to build towards a society and country that we all want to live in. The Premier’s State of the Province address on Friday recognised the hard work this administration has put in towards improving the lives of the people of our province; it did not shy away from the problems we still face; and it provided the framework for all of us to work better together, to realise the ideals of an open opportunity society, as promoted through the National Development Plan (NDP) and intended by our Constitution.

Die Agbare Premier is reg as sy uitwys dat daar ‘n aantal sosiale uitdagings is wat die provinsie en sy mense se voortuigang ondermyn.

Die verwantskap tussen alkohol- en dwelm-misbruik, bendegeweld en –bedrywighede, en die algehele veiligheid van mense is duidelik sigbaar.

Die Wes-Kaapse regering is vasbeslote om hierdie probleme aan te spreek deur transversele toetredinge om die komplekse probleme, hul oorsake en hul nagevolge effektief te bestry.

Die sukses hiervan verg egter toewyding en samewerking vanaf die samelewing as ‘n geheel.

Meaningful partnerships are the key to this approach and we will continue to build on partnerships that we have already created and build new ones where possible. Speaker, a perfect example of how safety can be increased when working better together, all the different spheres of government, and departments, with the cooperation of the private sector and civil society, is the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrade (VPUU) programme which is being extended outside the Metro region, which significantly assisting in bringing down crime.

It is this coming together of all stakeholders that will help ensure we realise what the NDP envisage, which is for people living in South Africa to feel safe at home, at school, at work and enjoying a life free of fear.

To make these safety possibilities a reality within communities in the Western Cape, the Department of Community Safety will continue with targeted interventions, promote positive alternatives to those at risk, especially the youth, and carry out its constitutional mandate to provide effective oversight over police services in the province.

Agbare Speaker, die jeug in die provinsie bly die kwesbaarste as slagoffers van geweldsmisdade, of om vasgevang te word in dwelm-misbruik, verslawing en bendes.

Dwelmverwante misdaad het sedert 2003/04 met meer as 311.5% gestyg en tans dra die Wes-Kaap by tot meer as ‘n derde van alle dwelmhandel en -misdaad in die land. Kommerwekkend, is die waargeneemde stygings in dwelm-verwante misdaad buite die Metro.

Die stand van dwelm-verwante misdaad in die provinsie is die rede hoekom die Wes-Kaapse regering steeds die pleidooi rig aan die Nationale Minister van Polisie om die gespesialiseerde eenhede, soos die dwelm en bende -eenheid, binne in die Suid-Afrikaanse Polisiediens (SAPD/SAPS) weer in te stel.

Die Wes-Kaapse regering rus egter nie op sy louere nie en as Departement, is ons reeds besig om te kyk na die platteland as ‘n fokus vir misdaad-voorkomings en teen-dwelm toetredinge.

The safety of our youth and those at risk, is a concern that this Government is prioritising. My colleague, Minister Fritz will elaborate further on replicating the successes of the Chrysalis Academy.

The Department of Community Safety is availing R1.6 million for the extension of the Youth, Safety and Religion partnership over the coming June/July school holidays. The programme we launched last year, reached nearly 20 000 youths and provided for much needed recreational opportunities particularly in high priority areas affected by crime and domestic violence.

This increased funding will allow the programme to be extended outside the Metro region which could help address the increase in drug-related crime experienced in rural municipalities such as Worcester, Paternoster and Saldanha Bay. More details on the extent of the programme will be announced soon.

Oversight over the police remains a priority focus for the Western Cape Government as we want the people of this province to benefit from the best possible police service. We know that the police have faced many challenges over the past few years and it is my hope that the Provincial Police Commissioner will be open to the inputs we make about policing, which come from our constitutional duty to oversee the work of the police.

Speaker, one of the most exciting endeavours ahead is the implementation of the Community Safety Act, Act 3 of 2013 and the real benefits it will bring the people of the province.

The Constitutional Court unanimously stated that the Premier is not only entitled to deal with complaints about policing but is indeed obliged to “take reasonable steps to shield the residents . . .  from an unrelenting invasion of their fundamental rights because of continued police inefficiency in combating crime and the breakdown of relations between the police and the community”.

In implementing the Act, the office of the police ombudsman will be created – a first for the people of the Western Cape and South Africa. The Act will also introduce a more structured approach to coordinating the work of the neighbourhood watches to ensure that they maximise the service they provide.

The Western Cape Provincial Police Ombudsman shall be responsible for dealing with complaints received from people in the province regarding the inefficiency of the police and or a breakdown in the relationship between the police and the community as is envisaged in sections 206 (3) read with (5) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa. The Ombudsman must be appointed by the Premier of the Western Cape and must be “a suitably qualified person, with experience in the field of law or policing.” The appointment is done for a non-renewable term not exceeding five years.

The WC Provincial Police Ombudsman and his/her investigators shall have far reaching investigative powers which include, amongst others, powers to direct any person to submit an affidavit or to appear before the Police Ombudsman to give evidence or to produce any document in that person’s possession or under their control which has a bearing on the complaint. They may request an explanation from any person whom he or she reasonably suspects of having information which may relate to the matter being investigated.

We look forward to The Ombudsman office being up and running by October.

Honourable Speaker, in closing, we need more regular crime statistics – the people of this province and the safety organisations working to protect our communities will be empowered if they know what type of crime is happening and where and when it is happening. Getting the police to release more regular crime stats will be a priority for my office.

Honourable Speaker, Madame Premier, the Western Cape Government and the Department of Community Safety are looking forward to making our province safer and better, together.