DA KZN:  Community Safety Bill key to reducing crime

Dr Rishigen Viranna, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Community Safety and Liaison

The DA in KZN is committed to presenting workable solutions to making this province a safe place to live, work and be.

It is against this backdrop that the DA submitted the ‘Community Safety Bill’ in July 2013.  Yet, despite more than a year having passed, it remains in the Office of the Speaker.

The Bill in no way seeks to control or interfere in the operations of the SAPS.  It caters for, among others, the following issues;

  • The creation of a police Ombud who will investigate complaints regarding inefficiencies  as well as breakdown in relations between the community and the police
  • Provide for mandatory reports from the Provincial Police Commissioner on matters such as: lost and stolen firearms, death of police officials in the execution of their duties, death by police action and in police custody, the allocation of funds and resources, quarterly reports on numbers of arrests, cases referred to court, prosecutions and convictions, complaints regarding police conduct and service delivery
  • Provide for similar reports from the executive heads of municipal police services in the province
  • Improve the responsiveness of the police to the safety concerns that exist in our communities
  • Provide for directives regarding the establishment of CPFs [Community Policing Forums] and CPF board with a view to depoliticise and strengthen the local oversight capacity of this entity
  • Provide for the accreditation and support of neighbourhood watches in order to improve the functioning and accountability of these structures
  • An integrated safety information system which aims to reduce the dependency on crime statistics alone so that we can deploy our limited resources to where they are most needed
  • Provide for partnerships to improve the relations between the police and communities
  • To establish the Provincial Safety Advisory Board to advise the provincial minister on matters related to the monitoring and oversight of police
  • To provide for awards for meritorious service in promoting safety

Through improved oversight and reporting, police will be far better informed and therefore more able, to successfully reduce the incidence of crime in KwaZulu-Natal.

The mandate of the KZN Community Safety & Liaison is to protect the people of KwaZulu-Natal. The Constitution emphasises that it is government’s duty to protect all citizens.

During the recent budget hearings, the DA were told that the department has one of the smallest budgets despite its vital function.  This makes it all the more important that every cent in this budget is spent properly.

The South African Police Services form the backbone of this fight against crime. On paper, the provincial SAPS look very effective. However, in all corners of Kwa-Zulu Natal there are still police stations struggling with a lack of sanitation, crumbling infrastructure and lack of vehicles. Recent media reports highlighted the state of the Mid-Illovo police station.

The DA praises the scores of committed and passionate police officers who despite dire circumstances serve our communities. Their courage and dedication to keeping all the residents of KwaZulu-Natal safe and secure in their homes, businesses and communities must be commended. These police officers who put their lives on the line are the true heroes of crime fighting.

Every report of police corruption is an affront to their sacrifice. Every case of police mismanagement is an affront to the sacrifice. And every case thrown out of court due to bungled investigation is an affront to their sacrifice. It is our duty as a legislature with our oversight mandate to ensure that their sacrifice is not in vain.

Crime is still a major concern in our province. While this has been known for years by residents, the international community is now concerned. Let me highlight sections of United States State Department Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s South Africa 2013 Crime and Safety Report:

  • It rates Durban as a ‘Critical’ crime threat post
  • Violent, confrontational crimes especially home invasion robberies, carjackings, street muggings and smash-and-grabs are of major concern
  • Criminals do not hesitate to use lethal weapons and crime permeates the entire country regardless of socioeconomic status

Of particular concern is the scourge of drugs.  Whether it is Whoonga, Sugars, Mandrax, Cocaine or Marijuana – they are all destroying the aspiring minds of our youth while our communities are buckling under the increased crime levels due to drug abuse.

The DA commends the recent busts made by the police and Hawks. We also note the back-tracking that took place during some of these raids. For example, during the first raid in Kloof, the National Police Commissioner initially announced that R3 billion worth of Cocaine was found.  She later revised this to R20 million worth of Mandrax precursors.

This is highly indicative of the current lack of capacity in SAPS where drug cases are handled by individual police stations. The Democratic Alliance has, for a long time, been calling for the re-establishment of Drug Intervention Units within SAPS so that there is a united front against this scourge.

Communities have also had enough of living in fear of drug-related crime and have formed their own action groups. The department should be working hand in hand with these community structures but it is failing dismally.  The Provincial Civilian Secretariat is currently a structure in name alone. As revealed during the portfolio committee meeting; 38% of staff posts in Phase I remain vacant while leases for district offices still remain unconfirmed. The excuses given at the portfolio committee hearings were weak when we consider the pressure crime puts on our communities.