“I will give you a much clearer idea in 100 days.”
This was the answer that the Democratic Alliance premier candidate in the Western Cape, Alan Winde, gave an Independent Media reporter when asked how he plans to tackle violent crime in the Western Cape. The interview, titled: “Winde’s plan to fight crime using tech”, was to set the tone on how the new sheriff in the province was going to tackle crime. It was spectacularly tone deaf.
Winde failed to inspire and proves that his choice as premier candidate was based on nothing but his race and the faction to which he belongs in the DA.
The answer from Winde indicates to the people of the Western Cape, Cape Town and in particular the Cape Flats, the DA’s core constituency, just how out of touch he is with one of the biggest issues facing the province at the moment. Winde has served in the provincial cabinet for the last decade. He has headed economic opportunities, tourism and agriculture departments. Yet he is unable to give a clear answer about how he will tackle violent crime.
Let us not forget, though, that the person who is responsible for the Western Cape being declared the most murderous province in South Africa is he who has just been given the plum job of the mayor of Cape Town. Dan Plato has been a monumental failure in building community networks, getting the police to work with the community to fight crime and building partnerships between stakeholders in order to tackle crime.
In fact, the interview conducted by Soyiso Maliti and published on 3 November 2018, shows just how inexperienced the DA is in understanding the challenge of crime in the Western Cape. Continuously, we have to hear from the premier of the province, Helen Zille, then echoed by Plato, her former MEC for Community Safety, how the army needs to be brought into our communities in the Cape Flats.
While one expects neither Zille nor Winde to have experience of living under army rule, as many of our communities did during the 1980s under the state of emergency, one would have thought that Plato, at least, would stand up for his community. Alas, he chose to join the National Party in 1990 when he had the choice, instead of the freedom-fighting ANC of Nelson Mandela.
Yet the call for the army and the continuous attack on SAPS by the provincial DA leadership highlights the singular spectacular failure of the province’s DA administration in interrogating the question of crime in our communities. The provincial leaders fail to understand that the challenge of crime — gangsterism, drug dealing, abalone poaching, forced prostitution, among many other factors — are all interconnected on the Cape Flats and cannot be separated from one another. One cannot understand crime on the Cape Flats without making reference to gangs, abalone, drugs and so on. It is an economy.
Winde and the rest of the DA leadership starting from Zille must understand that if they are going to make community safety the issue on which they will campaign for the elections in 2019 then they need to learn the first lesson. Crime on the Cape Flats is not a security issue alone. The army, the police and technology, as proposed by Winde in his interview, is not the silver bullet.
The drastic increase in crime in the Western Cape, over the last decade under DA rule is not due to the shifting of policing resources, but rather the systematic failure of DA service delivery to poorer communities over the last decade.
For example, the Irish economist Morgan Kelly differentiates between contact crime, on the one hand, and property crime, on the other. For Kelly, increase in contact crime, such as murder, rape, assault, robbery and so on is directly linked to the increase in inequality. On the other hand, the increase in property crime such as housebreakings, theft, vandalism, among others, is directly linked to an increase in poverty.
To understand therefore the rapid increase of murders in places such as Nyanga and Kraaifontein, based on the national crime statistics, one has to understand the myriad socio-economic issues that create the potent conditions in these places for an explosion of crimes such as murder. Fundamentally, what therefore heightens the aspects of contact crime is inequality.
This should not be surprising on a national scale when we try to understand too the onslaught against women and children in South Africa. The persistent issues of femicide, rape and abuse by men, in the main, of women and children point to the deep-seated inequality that exists between the sexes in our communities and the inequality between grown-ups and children. Our communities have little to no regard for children — little wonder they are the victims of the most heinous crimes.
At the same time, the attack on property, break-ins, theft of copper taps, telephone cables, vandalism, burning of trains, among so much other damage to property in our communities highlights the sense of despair brought about by poverty in our communities. To ease the pain of the poverty, substance abuse is often substituted for other forms of nourishment and entertainment and this in turn leads to further crime.
We are not surprised, though, that Winde, a senior minister in Zille’s cabinet, does not understand the causes and effects of crime. All his life, Winde’s privilege has guarded him against the very real challenges that many men across our provinces, his age, have had to encounter in their lives.
Men who have had to fend for their families and yet see their sons drop out of school and swallowed up by the local gang. Men who have had to stand by helplessly as their sons turn to drug-runs, crime and gangsters to secure a future for their children. These men have had to stand by hopelessly because the provincial government, in which Alan Winde plays a leading role, believes that the challenges of the Cape Flats are issues of security solved by hi-tech drones, costing millions of rands per annum and billions in the last decade.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has taken the wind out of the DA’s elections sail and launched the Anti-Gang Unit of the SAPS. More importantly, he has also stated that the Bambanani volunteer programme will be relaunched. A programme closed under the DA administration in the Western Cape, but a programme which sought above all to get communities working together to fight crime. School safety, train safety, community safety were all part of the areas that sought a holistic approach to making our communities safer.
Again, in 2019, voters in the Western Cape and South Africa in general will have the opportunity to elect their preferred parties in government at national and provincial level. In the Western Cape their choice is clear — continue for another five years of DA rule where crime becomes the political football of the blame game at the expense of poor communities from Khayelitsha to Kuils River, from Nyanga to Hanover Park, and elect Alan Winde and his party, which believes that hi-tech toys are the answer, albeit that he will need a 100 days to first learn how to play with them before tackling violence in our communities.
Turkey at Christmas or not. One thing is true — it will not be a safer Christmas for communities across the Western Cape in 2018 as Winde and the DA will do what they do best — blame national government for failures on crime and claim victory for successes over crime. DM
Bernard Joseph is an EFF Member in the Provincial Legislature of the Western Cape.