Opinionista Zakhele Mbhele 8 July 2018

The truth about policing in Nyanga

The reality is that all across South Africa, but particularly in the Western Cape, the SAPS is under-resourced, under-staffed, under-equipped and under-trained. These are not aspects of policing that are under the remit or control of the provincial government.

In a statement last week, the Western Cape ANC demonstrated once again that it does not understand the Constitution.

Their statement said: “The Constitution in RSA in terms of Section 206, grants all Provincial Governments powers, responsibilities and mandates to give effect to effective crime prevention strategies that bolster the police and also affords communities to act in the role of force multiplier to compliment police in operations against gangsterism, protecting children and other violent crimes.” (sic)

I would like to challenge the Western Cape ANC to show me the portion of section 206 on which they have based the above assertion.

Section 206 of the Constitution deals with political responsibility for the police service. It determines, first of all, that “a member of the Cabinet must be responsible for policing”. This member of Cabinet is, at the moment, General Bheki Cele.

Concerning provinces, section 206(3) deals with things provinces are entitled to do, namely to:

  • Monitor police conduct;

  • Oversee the effectiveness and efficiency of the police service, including receiving reports on the police service;

  • Promote good relations between the police and the community;

  • Assess the effectiveness of visible policing; and

  • Liaise with the Cabinet member responsible for policing with respect to crime and policing in the province.

Under DA government, the Western Cape has taken extensive steps to fulfil its responsibilities in terms of the Constitution.

In 2013, we enacted the Western Cape Community Safety Act. In terms of this Act, the substance of policing oversight is clarified and concretised, particularly in the creation of the office of the Police Ombudsman, and Advocate Vusi Pikoli was appointed to head up this body with effect from 1 December 2014.

The Police Ombudsman “seeks to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of the police services and to improve relations between the police and the communities by investigating complaints of police inefficiency and/or a breakdown of relations between the police and the community”.

The Ombudsman conducts outreaches to communities, police stations, and policing clusters. It has a dedicated procedure for receiving and dealing with complaints about police services and efficiency in the Western Cape and reports to the provincial department.

Section 206(5) of the Constitution provides some mechanisms which a province can use in order to perform the functions set out in section 206(3) with one of the most crucial being the appointment of a commission of inquiry into complaints of police inefficiency.

The Western Cape government did exactly this when, in 2012, it established a commission of inquiry into allegations of police inefficiency and a breakdown of relations between SAPS and the community in Khayelitsha. The commission found, among other things, that there was a failure of SAPS Management Systems in addressing problems at Khayelitsha stations. SAPS is controlled and managed, in terms of section 207(2) of the Constitution, by the National Police Commissioner. He or she reports to the Minister of Police on the level of national government.

The situation has improved very little since the Khayelitsha Commission presented its findings to Premier Helen Zille in 2014.

The reality is that all across South Africa, but particularly in the Western Cape, the SAPS is under-resourced, under-staffed, under-equipped and under-trained. These are not aspects of policing that are under the remit or control of the provincial government.

Police-to-population ratios in the Western Cape have been steadily deteriorating. In 2018, the average policeman or woman in the Western Cape is looking after 124 more residents than they were in 2016. At the moment, for every police officer in the Western Cape, there are 500 residents to be kept safe. This is a mammoth task. The ratio in the Western Cape far outstrips that of the rest of country, where every police officer has 369 South Africans to keep safe.

In 2017, the Hawks’ “specialised unit”, the South African Narcotics Enforcement Bureau, was established with only nine officers stationed in the Western Cape, compared to 25 in Gauteng and 24 in KwaZulu-Natal. Drug-related crime is rife in the Western Cape, and I and my colleague Marius Redelinghuys raised this with the then Hawks Head, Berning Ntlemeza, in a meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Police. He responded that the numbers are for the interim establishments only, and the final approved division of officers would look different.

Eight months later, in November 2017, the number of officers stationed in Gauteng had been increased to 34, while the Western Cape remained stationary at nine.

In Nyanga, where DA Leader Mmusi Maimane and Provincial Ministers Dan Plato and Bonginkosi Madikizela visited this week, the ratio of police officers to residents is one to 628. In 2016/17, the station logged the highest number of murders in the country. It also logged the highest number of sexual offences, assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm, car-jackings and attempted sexual offences. With most other crimes, it features in the country’s “top 10” precincts.

Where crime is concerned, “top 10” is not an accolade but an indictment on the national ANC government, which continues to govern as if the lives of ordinary South Africans do not matter. DM

Zakhele Mbhele is DA Shadow Minister of Police

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