WC SAPS needs more resources, return of Specialised Units and Reservists

by Dan Plato, Western Cape Minister of Community Safety:

This extract is based on a speech delivered by Minister Dan Plato during the debate in the Western Cape Provincial Parliament on the subject “The ability of the South African Police Service in the Western Cape to prevent, combat and investigate crime in our Province”]

The distinction needs to be made between the ability of the SAPS members to do their job in this province and the lack of capacitating support they received from the former SAPS provincial management and are receiving from the National SAPS Management.

I support the efforts of Acting Provincial Commissioner, Major General Thembisile Patekile, and the dedicated men and women in blue who work under extremely difficult circumstances to try provide the safety services this province needs.

The Western Cape Government aims to help create safer communities through a whole-of-society approach where everyone has to play their part in making our communities safer. This is based on targeted safety interventions and effective partnerships like the Department of Community Safety’s Youth Safety and Religious Partnership with the religious fraternity which has provided more than 27 000 youth with development opportunities.

However, the Provincial Government has no operational control over the police in the province, no control over the resource allocation to the province and only has an oversight role over policing in the province.

We need to ask the tough questions why the Western Cape seems to never receive its fair share of policing resources. The latest reports that the South African Police Service (SAPS) has seen 7 000 police men and women leave the service in 2014/15 nationally is cause for great concern. We need to know how many left the service in this province.

The National Commissioner has to adequately empower the Acting Provincial Commissioner, with sufficient resources and prioritise recruitment for the Western Cape, if we want to enable the police to do their job.

The Western Cape SAPS is already severely under resourced and cannot afford to lose any more officers:

  • Earlier this year suspended provincial commissioner, Arno Lamoer, admitted that the Western Cape shortage had grown from 1 shortage of 1000 officers to a shortage of 3 000 police officers in the Western Cape;
  • 128 out of 151 (85%) stations in this province are understaffed.

We work with the SAPS in the Western Cape in support of their efforts and in attempts to ensure that quality policing services are available to every person in the province.

But crime has been increasing annually and over the last couple of years the numbers are horrific. Since the 2008 financial year:

  • 14 720 people have been murdered;
  • 14 606 cases of attempted murders were opened;
  • 15 158 cases of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition was opened;
  • 274 807 cases reported of burglaries at people’s houses; and
  • Almost half a million – 428 372 – cases of drug related crimes was reported.

Under resourcing is hampering the police’s ability to prevent crime and to effectively combat crime. If you look at the conviction rates, it seems that police are too thinly stretched to investigate crime.

In the past three years, of the more than 950 gang related murders and 2207 attempted murders, there were only 85 successful prosecutions – that means less than 3% of cases led to conviction.

As long as these gangsters remain on our streets we will continue to lose the battle against serious and violent crime.

This province has a major drug and gang problem. The drug culture and the gang culture on the Cape Flats require critical attention.

We must infiltrate that culture and change that culture. We need targeted behaviour change and mind-set change. Drugs and gangs has become part of modern day life. We cannot accept this situation as normal. It is definitely an abnormal state of affairs.

I have in the past requested the President to temporarily deploy the army in the gang hot spot areas in order to allow the police to do their work. I have been calling for the reintroduction of the specialised gang and drug units since 2011 yet we are still no closer to action on this despite the National Minister of Police’s commitment to do so almost two months ago.

We need the specialised gang and drug units to be reintroduced as well as the army to be deployed as a peacekeeping force so we can ensure SAPS investigate cases properly and ensure there are convictions. It was a mistake to disband the drug and gang units. Bring these units back right now.

The fact that persistent gang violence has plagued the Manenberg area since the Operation Fiela raids last week shows that gangsters are rattled by the organised and combined presence of the police, the army and metro police. These short term interventions should be carried out more regularly and be institutionalised. A once-off intervention will not make any meaningful impact.

We cannot, however, allow a situation where communities are being held hostage or punished for pointing out those responsible for the illegal activities. Witnesses to gang related crimes and murders need to make use of the Justice Department’s Witness Protection Programme.

We need a collaborative and long term sustainable approach to be adopted without hesitation to ensure that our communities are rid of gangsters and drugs and that everyone’s safety is prioritised.

Bring the reservists back right now. It was a mistake to let them go because their exit out of the SAPS impacts severely on visible policing.

Despite these challenges, the Department of Community Safety will continue to partner with anyone who is willing to help create safer environments where people live, work and move about.

We will continue rolling out the various targeted and innovative interventions, like – the Watching Briefs unit, the YSRP, like our youth focused outreaches, like our Chrysalis and Wolwekloof Acadamy, and our FET College partnership.

We will continue with our crime prevention efforts by partnering with communities and organisations through, among other, the deployment of our Safety Kiosks.

We will continue to provide vigorous oversight over policing in this province through the mandate that the Community Safety Act affords us, including the Independent Office of the Western Cape Police Ombudsman, empowering and professionalising the Neighbourhood Watches and the Community Policing Forums.

We will continue to support the SAPS and assist them where possible to help their ability to prevent, combat and investigate crime in our attempts to ensure that quality safety services are a reality for every person in the Western Cape.