KZN’s chronic police officer shortage while province drowns in crime

Dr Rishigen Viranna, MPL

DA KZN Spokesperson on Community Safety and Liaison

KZN Police Commissioner, Mmamonye Ngobeni and senior SAPS management have once again been exposed for their lack of transparency with the release of damning figures by the National Minister, confirming a chronic shortage of SAPS officers in our province.

Regrettably, KZN’s Department of Community Safety, along with SAPS leadership has been more focused on hiding this information from the public than finding solutions, evidenced by the countless hours spent evading and ignoring parliamentary questions by the DA and even PAIA applications by the media.

When the information was finally released to my DA colleague Mrs Dianne Kohler-Barnard in the National Assembly earlier this week, it was done without any obstruction, no PAIA application and no fuss! This shows that even the National Minister feels this type of secrecy is ridiculous.

The reply reveals that KZN’s township and rural police stations are experiencing staffing crises resulting in fewer crime fighting activities and fewer cases being opened.  This in turn has led to fewer personnel being allocated to these stations.

It is a never-ending cycle, one which could have be addressed by communities and the legislature had this information been made available.

The entire episode again highlights the disconnected relationship between police leadership and ordinary officers on the ground. Many dedicated policemen and women work in deplorable conditions of chronic staff shortages, vehicle and equipment shortages and lack of direction from the police ‘top brass’. When they do raise these issues in internal police structures, their voices go unheard.

Instead, KZN’s SAPS leadership seem more interested in protecting their own jobs rather than focusing on empowering police officers and protecting our poorest communities from criminals.   It should not be a case of more police officers dying before the issue of police shortages is addressed.

Recent crime statistics show KZN communities are drowning in an ocean of crime with the province the murder capital of South Africa.  KZN needs a Community Safety Act, as passed in the Western Cape, which ensures a police service that is transparent and accountable. This is the foundation on which a strong and meaningful relationship between communities and the police can be built.