Community Safety – KZN a province of unfilled promises

Dr Rishigen Viranna, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Community Safety

KZN communities are tired of the Department of Community Safety & Liaison’s reports and ongoing promises to lower crime levels in the province – many didn’t even know that November had been declared Safety Month.  In fact the provincial portfolio committee did not even know.

Community dissatisfaction is very clear from the response to the recently released crime statistics and the rise of vigilantism. People are fed up with high crime levels and are now demanding action from the MEC, his department and the South African Police Services.

Today I would like to enlighten this House on one community’s agonising wait for KZN’s ANC-led government to fulfil its promises. The communities of Silverglen, Croftdene and Montford in Chatsworth are under siege by criminals based in the Silverglen Nature Reserve. There have been innumerable murders, rapes, assaults and home burglaries with residents now living as prisoners in their own homes. Even a police officer was shot by criminals from inside the nature reserve.

The MEC is fully aware of this community’s circumstances as he visited the community at the Pinewood Primary School and the SAPS Chatsworth boardroom on 12 February 2014. During this meeting he lamented the effect crime is having on the school saying, ‘I have not come across that situation before. I do not know how they go about teaching in that environment.’

At the time, the MEC promised that a mounted police unit would be based in the nature reserve.  He also promised increased police ground patrols, additional security barriers around the nature reserve and for this issue to be discussed in the legislature.

Yet, ten months later the community is still waiting for action. This lack of action, however, is not new. Similar promises were made by Honourable Ravi Govender on 20 October 2012 and by MEC Ravi Pillay on 28 August 2013.  In 2013, the Department of Public Works even promised to assign R200 000 to build new stables for the promised mounted police unit. I have proof of these promises here.

This government has now become the government of unfulfilled promises when it regards keeping our people safe.

This is the story of one KZN community but it is by no means an isolated occurrence. One just has to look at the recently released crime statistics for KwaZulu-Natal. It shows that many communities have reason to fear for their safety and that the MEC should not try to water down the crime statistics.

Ten people are murdered every day in KZN.  There are a further 10 attempted murders per day. Every day, at least 32 women or children are victims of sexual crimes.  There are also 119 house burglaries and 24 hijackings that occur every day.  Levels of crime are at crisis levels and our communities have had enough.

It is an indictment against the ANC government that the challenges listed in the Intelligence Coordinating Committee Assessment on Social Stability in KZN all relate to government failures;

  • Localised political tensions. The current internal ANC regional leadership violence is now occurring on the streets. Every day we hear of gun battles or stabbings occurring from Lamontville and Cato Ridge to Richmond. The ruling party now cannot control their own members
  • Instability in the education sector due to government’s yearly mismanagement of NSFAS results in annual student rioting
  • Instability in labour due to strike violence, primarily by trade union affiliated to COSATU.

The government first needs to resolve its own internal problems and mismanagement before it can think of implementing an effective crime fighting strategy.

The DA does commend the MEC on his initiative to curb police deaths.  Every police death is one too many and we, as public representatives, must encourage all communities to work against this blight.

We must, however, look at the underlying causes of this. Yes, there is a definite criminal element. But there are the other contributory issues of severe staffing shortages and equipment and vehicle shortages within SAPS, confirmed by a recent National Assembly parliamentary answer.

A total of 50% of KZN police stations – primarily in rural areas and townships – do not meet the national norm of 184 police officers per 100 000 people.  These include Umkomaas, Ndwedwe, Plessislaer, Umsunduzi, Mpophomeni, Harding, uMlazi and Chatsworth. According to the Khayelitsha Commission, half of all KZN police stations are less resourced than Cape Town’s Khayelitsha Township, which has staffing of 190 police per 100 000.

The question must be asked – how can we expect the police to be an effective crime fighting mechanism when they face so many internal challenges?

It is in this light and as an effort to create an active, effective provincial police service, that the Democratic Alliance will resubmit a revised Community Safety Bill to the legislature early next year. This Bill will ensure a conducive relationship between the provincial police and people’s legislature. It will ensure amongst others:

  • The creation of a police Ombudsman
  • Mandatory reports by the Provincial Police Commissioner on service delivery encompassing staffing and vehicles; arrests, caseloads and convictions; and police deaths
  • Provide, build and improve upon relationships between communities and the police

The crime-burdened people of KZN live in hope that the ANC will move beyond party politics to ensure a safer province.  This bill will ensure that the KZN Community Safety department is converted from one known for its inaction to one renowned for action.