Statement by Alan Winde, Western Cape Minister of Community Safety, as delivered at a media conference today
6 December 2018
I have now been in this portfolio for one month. It is clear that:
Too many people in our province are dying due to crime.
Too many people are held hostage in their homes due to gang violence.
Too many people are caught in gang cross-fires.
Too many people have become victims.
Too many people are just becoming statistics.
Too many businesses are affected.
Too few police officers.
Too few police vehicles and the ones that are there, are not working.
Too few detectives to thoroughly handle caseloads.
Too few criminals convicted.
Zero political leadership and will at national level.
The kay problem is, in a province where crime is rife, we have a police staff shortage of 4500 officers.
It must also be noted that the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, has still not replied to Cabinet’s Policing Needs and Priority correspondence, dated 10 October 2018, which gave him 30 days to respond.
We can no longer allow crime to dictate the rules in our communities. We are taking up the fight, and we are going to use every tool at our disposal to ensure that all parts of the criminal justice pipeline are working towards eradicating crime and its effects from our communities.
The core function of provincial Community Safety departments, as per the Constitution, is to promote professional policing through effective oversight. Section 206 (3) (b) of the Constitution states: “Each province is entitled to oversee the effectiveness and efficiency of the police service.”
Noting that this is the only department which holds this power, it is my duty and responsibility to present an honest picture of what I have found to be true, so that the pertinent issues of crime can be addressed. I take this responsibility very seriously.
We started the month off with a two-day Safer Western Cape conference, where all 13 provincial government departments, including Premier Helen Zille, as well as key national departments, the National Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, the National Civilian Secretariat for Police, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Provincial Police Commissioner, Lt Gen Jula, representatives from local government, City law enforcement and metro police, Neighbourhood Watches, Community Policing Forums, NPO’s and civil society were represented.
We hosted this conference – the first of its kind – to find tangible solutions to the dire state of crime in this province. The 2017/18 crime statistics clearly show the horror of what we are facing. If we are to beat this scourge, we all have to play our part.
The statistics showed that, on average, throughout 2017/18, the Western Cape recorded:
– 10 reported counts of murder per day;
– 10 reported counts of attempted murder per day;
– 19 reported counts of sexual offence per day;
– 116 reported counts of burglary at residential premises per day;
– 9 reported counts of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition per day; and
– 320 reported counts of drug-related crime per day.
Further, 83% of all gang-related murders in South Africa occurred in this province.
Upon taking office at the beginning of November, during a meeting with the Provincial Police Commissioner, Lt. Gen Jula, I committed to visiting at least ten police stations across the province. This was so that I could get a firsthand account of the state of our police service in operation, and their ability to adequately keep our communities safe.
Our dedicated men and women in blue are fighting an uphill battle. Their task of protecting our people from crime has been made extremely difficult by severe resource limitations – at some stations I found only one person at the front desk assisting residents. The officers made it clear that they would like to get on with their police work, instead of being bogged down with administration functions, such as the certification of documents.
The ten stations I visited are: George Central, Conville, Pacaltsdorp, Roberston, McGregor, Athlone, Steenberg, Ravensmead, Philippi East, Mitchells Plain and Bishop Lavis. Between the last three stations, 443 murders were reported in the 2017/18 financial year. There are communities in our province that are plagued by a culture of criminality.
In addition to this, I also visited the Sir Lowry’s Pass satellite station, which is part of the Somerset West station, and the Lavender Hill and Uitsig base camps.
It became abundantly clear that the resource need is much greater than reported, with many stations incapacitated to perform their duties.
Section 206(3)(d)(e) states: “Each province is entitled to assess the effectiveness of visible policing; and to liaise with the Cabinet member responsible for policing with respect to crime and policing in the province.”
If the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, would do his job of ensuring that all stations across the province are capacitated and resourced accordingly, we will start seeing a dramatic decline in crime patterns. All stations are doing their best with what they have, but it is unacceptable that dedicated men and women in blue must be placed under this immense pressure, due to a failure on the part of the Minister of Police.
Communities are crying out for visible policing, and faster response times. Unfortunately, this will unlikely to materialize. The Minister of Police has already shown that addressing crime in this province is not high on his priority list, and he excludes this province from his engagements. An example of this is when he recently held a press briefing to highlight the successes of the anti-gang unit, but did not invite the province, then blatantly lied and said that he did.
The following week, when he visited Port Elizabeth, he invited the MEC of the Eastern Cape. He clearly does not want to work together with this province to address crime. I can only assume that he chooses politics over people’s lives.
Over the past five years we have seen the national government radically deplete the number of police officers in our province, from 22 038 in 2013, to 20 969 today. This has crushed our crime fighting efforts.
The Western Cape’s average police-to-population ratio is 1:509. Residents of Cape Town have an even worse deal, with only 1 police officer for every 560 residents. The national average is one officer for every 369 residents. I told all officers and volunteers in no uncertain terms that we will be taking the fight to the National Police Minister to ensure that Western Cape residents get the crime-busting service they deserve.
It has recently come to my attention that there are attempts by ANC players to mislead the public around the police numbers in our province. This attempt to divert responsibility clearly demonstrate how desperate they have become and are continuing to use obfuscation in an attempt to cover up how the national government has failed.
Because we are a solution driven government, and because we refuse to wait around for the national government to fulfill its duties when it I clearly unwilling and incapable of doing so, we have embarked on an implementation programme to encourage safety in the province. These include:
R10 000 reward for the reporting of an illegal firearm on 078 330 9333. No personal details will be revealed to SAPS, only the location of the illegal firearm. Thusfar, we have received 31 tip offs.
Releasing Western Cape government staff, on an ad hoc volunteer basis, to act as Commissioners of Oath at various police stations. The government has 84 000 employees, and their deployment can make a significant difference, as it will release a large number of police officers from their desks, thus ensuring more police personnel are visible in our communities, fighting crime.
The introduction of a monthly crime fighting hero. Sgt van Noie, a detective stationed at Manenberg police station was the first recipient of this inaugural award. The purpose of this award is to recognise the efforts by individuals and groups in their pursuit of creating a #SaferWesternCape.
Both SAPS and the community structures welcomed these interventions and committed to working with the Department in spreading the word and number throughout all communities. I will be assisting SAPS by meeting with the judicial sector, so that search warrants are fast tracked. This is to ensure that there are no delays in confiscating illegal firearms from the reported premises.
A further intervention is our R5 million allocation for police reservists, which I announced last week during my Medium Term Budget Policy Statement. Although Minister Bheki Cele has already demonstrated his unwillingness to collectively address crime in this province by not inviting us to his media briefing on the successes of the Anti-Gang unit, we make this offer in good faith.
We believe that if the Minister is serious about addressing crime in our province and alleviating the pressure off our dedicated men and women in blue, he will accept this offer.
It has been reported that we do not support the reintroduction of this unit. This is another blatant lie. Along with us, SAPS and community members have celebrated the reintroduction of the Anti-Gang Unit and the successes they are achieving. It is important to note that we have been calling for its reintroduction for more than a decade. We are looking forward to the reintroduction of other specialized units, as there is a clear need in our communities for this.
A deep concern raised by these structures are that criminals, once arrested, get off too easily. I will therefore engage the judicial sector about ensuring that measures are put in place to make it difficult for them to be released.
Section 206 (3) (c) further states: “Each province is entitled to promote good relations between the police and the community.”
I committed to the community safety volunteer structures that we will strengthen, support and empower them even more, as they are essential cogs in our safety machine. We have set a budget aside for the Neighbourhood Watch(NHW) programme which will see accredited NHW’s receiving R10 000 each, so that they are able to acquire further equipment or items to strengthen their crime-fighting efforts. Our goal is to ensure that all NHW’s are eventually resourced equally.
It must be noted that upon accreditation and at the conclusion of their training, all NHW’s also receive a starter kit of equipment such as reflector bibs, torches, car strobe lights and radios.
I’ve had the opportunity to go out on patrol with the Lavender Hill/Steenberg Neighbourhood Watches and Community Policing Forums, and saw first-hand the difference their presence is making in the streets.
We have also been accused of “starving grass roots organisations, such as CPF’s, of funding”. I can categorically state, that this is yet another lie. We have 150 CPF’s in this Province. Through fulfilling their statutory functions, these bodies receives funding of up to R3000 per month. For this financial year, CPFs have received near R1.5 million from this department.
The 6,8% reduction in property related crimes, which includes residential- and business burglary and the theft of-and out of a motor vehicle, as reported in the 2017/18 crime stats, are all due to the vigilance of community structures, such as the Neighbourhood Watch, Community Policing Forums, Street Committees and School Resource Officers.
Throughout my engagement with SAPS officers, I found that their spirit, will and desire to create a #SaferWesternCape is quite evident. They are dedicated and professional, and I will continue to fight for them, so that they receive the necessary assistance and support from the national Police Minister.