Maverick Citizen

TUESDAY EDITORIAL

Combating crime effectively and within the law – a response to Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi

Combating crime effectively and within the law – a response to Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi
Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle)

It is sad and worrying when a politician with the express constitutional obligations of the premier (see section 127) resorts to such a level of misrepresentation and tries to retrofit the law to fit his actions. It suggests that he knows his administration has acted unlawfully. An investigation by the Public Protector or South African Human Rights Commission is warranted.

In recent weeks Daily Maverick published a series of articles raising questions about the appointment and training of Gauteng’s Crime Prevention Wardens, also known as the amaPanyaza. High levels of crime make it a highly emotive issue, and successful interventions to combat crime need cool heads and close public scrutiny.

However, last week in a right of reply requested by Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi, he attacks the bonafides of the articles’ authors, as well as of Daily Maverick for publishing them, claiming that “a quick review of the wardens’ coverage reveals that most of the accusations and claims made against them are overstated, political, contrived and speculative”. Among other things the premier accused us of “a manipulative, non-factual crusade to undermine the CPWs. Every crusade needs a devil, and they seem to have found one in the CPWs.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Gauteng Crime Prevention Wardens: Premier slams reporting

Public discussion is good for accountability and the media must answer for its claims. Unfortunately though, although Lesufi’s response is full of sound, fury and insinuation, it doesn’t directly rebut any of the issues raised in the series of articles:

  • The premier doesn’t refute or provide contrary evidence to the assertion that the GCPWs have been set up illegally because permission has not yet been granted by the minister of justice and correctional services, as is required in terms of s 334 of the Criminal Procedure Act;
  • Instead the premier says: “When the training programme is complete, the Crime Prevention Wardens will be appointed in terms of the Public Service Act, 1994 (Proclamation No. 103 of 1994), and designated as Peace Officers in terms of section 334 of the Criminal Procedure Act, 1977 (Act No. 51 of 1994)” – effectively admitting that while the GCPWs are already budgeted for and deployed to communities, they have not yet been officially appointed. Despite admitting this the premier says: “Scores of suspects have been arrested by the CPWs jointly with other law enforcement agencies.” With what legal powers, we ask again?;
  • The premier says nothing about the allegation of violence against an innocent member of the public. He expresses no sympathy and makes no commitment to a speedy investigation. Instead, the premier refers to the severe injuries we have reported as “magnified mistakes” which he passes off with the comment: “Not to say that they are flawless, no one is – anything involving humans is imperfect”;
  • The premier doesn’t address how policing experts have voiced concerns about three months of training being inadequate. Or how policing experts have voiced concerns that some of the roles of CPWs do not make sense;
  • The premier doesn’t contradict our assertion that independent oversight is inadequate. Instead he says that “any abuse of authority is to be reported to the Public Service Commission by the public”. How and to who? He adds: “The Risk Management Directorate [in the Department of Community Safety], which oversees the investigation of allegations of fraud and corruption against the department’s law enforcement personnel, investigates complaints against the wardens internally.” The young man who was unlawfully beaten almost to death by GCPWs has been told none of this. After one visit by the department and Ipid he has heard nothing more;
  • The premier doesn’t deny the email correspondence we published with the chief finance officer of the Department of Community Safety warning that “the department has exposed itself to serious risks” and recommending that “accredited instructors” be procured. Neither does he address the response of another senior official that the retired DCS officials he had enlisted to provide the training were “here with a very clear conscience of contributing to the ruling party targeting the 2024 elections, as all of them are active members of the ruling party”;
  • The premier does not supply evidence of the certification of the training. Instead he repeats the vague statement that the training “has received approval from the relevant Education and Training Quality Assurance Body via the national Department of Transport”, without saying which SETA, or why the national Department of Transport would be responsible for accrediting a safety and security programme;
  • The premier refers to the GCPWs forming part of Gauteng’s “comprehensive policing strategy against crime that was launched in the last State of the Province Address”, while not pointing out that the Gauteng Safety Strategy 2015-2020 is nearly four years past its sell-by date; and
  • The premier refers to his pronouncements on targeting crime in his State of the Province Address in February 2023 (read it here). But this does not amount to either a strategy or a policy. Indeed, in his initial prolix response to our questions (which we published in full) Sizwe Pamla, the premier’s spokesperson, admitted as much, saying that the province is “looking to develop a Community Safety Bill and Community Safety Policy encompassing CPW, Traffic, PS, Patrollers, Brigades, GBVF etc”.

In August, provincial police commissioner Elias Mawela told the media it was “too early to say if they are helping in crime prevention efforts”. However, little more than a month later, the premier pronounced: “Ever since the deployment of wardens, the feelings of safety in Gauteng have improved drastically. Their presence is felt in townships, informal settlements and hostels.”

It is sad and worrying when a politician with the express constitutional obligations of the premier (see section 127) resorts to such a level of misrepresentation and tries to retrofit the law to fit his actions. Not even the President has the power to create a “supplementary force to support the current law enforcement personnel” (Lesufi’s words) just by announcing it in Parliament. It suggests that he knows his administration has acted unlawfully. An investigation by the Public Protector or South African Human Rights Commission is warranted.

Meanwhile, the people of Gauteng remain as unsafe as ever against high levels of violent crime and the wardens themselves are placed in dangerous situations for which they are untrained, legally unprotected and underpaid. The wardens deserve better and so do we, the people. DM

Read more in Daily Maverick: 

Gauteng Crime Prevention Wardens set up unlawfully: experts

Lesufi’s Gauteng crime prevention wardens accused of brutal assault

New cadre of crime-busters? Gauteng’s Crime Prevention Wardens are doing little to combat crime, say residents

Whistle-blower says Gauteng crime prevention wardens are unprepared and unqualified   

Murder, mayhem and fighting crime in Gauteng – what’s all the fuss about the amaPanyaza?

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    A Premier who has wasted hundreds of millions of Rand in his previous portfolio cannot be trusted.

  • Denise Smit says:

    What about the unannounced school searches to “improve discipline” in schools. how legal is that? Who is going to make sure that this gets reported to the HRC. Gauteng may not get away with this serious illegal intrusion into the work of the police – this carries great responsibility and inservice education is not sufficient. Denise Smit

  • Vivian Carver says:

    He is in the same circus as Fekile

  • Jan Badenhorst says:

    I think the word that comes to mind is “kitskonstabels”. And I am old enough to remember how that fared. For those too young to remember, here is some history from the last days of Apartheid.

    I found this online, in an article titled: “Kitskonstabels in Crisis: A Closer Look at Black on Black Policing”.

    “…the study concludes that the kitskonstabels have demonstrated a systematic pattern of unlawful conduct and abuse of power. The way they are recruited, their low level of education, and the inadequate training they receive have worsened the problem. Operating without effective supervision and knowing they are unlikely to be disciplined or prosecuted, the kitskonstabels have taken the law into their own hands. In spite of government promises to limit the tasks of the kitskonstabels to community service, tighten up recruitment methods, improve training, and dismiss undisciplined officers, the kitskonstabels still operate with broad power.”

    Nothing new here….

  • William Kelly says:

    This muppet premier fights this way because it’s a key political football, crucial to electioneering in 2024. It’s as obvious as rain. Now that it is done, he will double down, and then redouble until after elections. This is just the beginning.

  • David C says:

    The only way to combat this is to support Civil Society organisation and help them engage in lawfare to shut these muppets down. Go after Lesufi personally and make him spend his own money defending his illegal actions. We must now have a pretty good roadmap of legal stratagems to cut this mafia of Insane Clown Politicians down to size.

  • Dhasagan Pillay says:

    Never trust a Black racist in South Africa. It is undeniable proof that the person has learned nothing from our past and is not willing to contribute meaningfully to our future. (If your opinion differs, please begin your comment by referencing Lebogang Maille – so we can have a meaningful and robust discussion that runs the gamut from the Premier’s low step count – he has led no protests to the MEC’s home, to how much time he spent teaching his own children not to fall into pit latrines.)

  • Matthew Quinton says:

    C’mon people, stop being to judgemental.

    3 months of training is more than most of out members of parliament have and look at the amazing job they are able to do!

    In the “new Azanian dream” and comparatively speaking, he has a team of professors running around there!

    At least we now have a road celebrating the life and times of our necklacing queen, Whiney the Mandela!

  • Roger Sheppard says:

    Many I speak with suggest a “horrible man” in office. He cannot face the simplest questions either, judging by his response(s) to Mark Heywood et al. I guess he dare not answer honestly, if he wants to remain in the upper echelons of the mob-led ANC! And his (lack of?) courage lies in his failure to dare tell the truth, the truth which ought to be found in answer to Heywood’s et al questionings.
    Poor man, with limited courage?

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