Opinion

IN RESPONSE: Skewed facts & personal attacks do not change WC policing reality

IN RESPONSE: Skewed facts & personal attacks do not change WC policing reality

OPINION

_A response to MPP Kama’s column, _Dan Plato is heartless and unsympathetic to poor people's plight

The fact that several Western Cape police stations feature in the top 30 murder stations in SAPS’ annual crime stats year on year is evidence of the long standing plea to the authority to supplement resources at these stations, improve visible policing, and intensify criminal intelligence efforts to fight rampant violent crime. While the South African Police Service (SAPS) undertook to release crime stats on a quarterly basis to improve its responses more efficiently, we have yet to see strides made in this regard in the province. Instead, ANC MPP Mesuli Kama resorts to a personal attack on the character of the mayor of Cape Town, in which he misconstrues facts on the state of policing in the province and effectively excuses national government in Pretoria from its core safety mandate.

National police deployment rates in the Western Cape remain below the average rate in South Africa and well below international standards. The lack of visible policing is a recipe for the encouragement of criminal opportunists. As much as the ANC leadership in the Western Cape attempts to blame the city and provincial Democratic Alliance-led governments for this, it is the Western Cape government and the City of Cape Town that has taken a seat at the table to drastically reduce crime. A clear example: following the recent spate of shootings in Mitchells Plain, the Department of Community Safety provided an allocation for the deployment additional law enforcement officers in less than two weeks and on a permanent basis as part of the province’s Safety Plan.

The City of Cape Town’s CCTV programme system has led to 160 successful arrests since July 2020 to date, and this is despite restricted movement due to the lockdown. The second, most CCTV cameras part of this programme are located in Khayelitsha, with additional locations expected to be brought online during this year as part of the visible service acceleration programme.

The provincial government, along with the city, have earmarked funds and utilise data to target crime fighting interventions where it is most needed. This year, the Department of Community Safety will extend the deployment of Law Enforcement Advancement Programme officers to four additional crime priority areas, namely, Kraaifontein, Harare, Mfuleni and Gugulethu. In essence, the Department of Community Safety, in cooperation with the city, will be adding more boots on the ground at every top murder station in the province. This is another example of subnational governments in the province taking a lead on safety, despite it not being their core mandate.

And so, the provincial government has used its budget to supplement the short comings of SAPS – all together, these interventions have led to several arrests too, but with constraints in the criminal justice system due to thousands of backlogged DNA specimens at the SAPS forensics laboratory, criminal convictions remain in a state of disarray. Yet again, this is the sole mandate of the national government’s SAPS. Worse still, national Police Minister Bheki Cele has stated that he was unaware that the SAPS had been unable to process DNA for the last two months, while the specimen backlog already stands at 172,000. In addition to the backlog on 7 March 2021, reports circulated that eight million pieces of evidence were lost due to non-payment of the ICT system used to record and track DNA samples from criminal suspects.

The provincial Minister of Community Safety in the Western Cape has raised the issue with the national police minister on several occasions and the Western Cape police ombudsman’s has investigated the matter and made recommendations accordingly. It cannot be that the Cele is simply unaware. One would hope that Kama would then rather use his party position to lobby the matter of supply chain management issues within the SAPS along with the ignorance of the national minister in the face of violent crime in the province. Surely this would be in the best interest of residents awaiting justice.

MPP Kama makes one valid point but his argument is skewed: yes, gang violence contributes extensively to the murder rate in Cape Town but as indicated, there is a missing link between the deployment of more police officers and a critically low detective base, despite the evidently high murder rate in the province according to crime stats. Added to this, given the DNA dilemma, it is no wonder that the gang conviction rate is as low as 3%.

Instead of working with the provincial and city governments, national police delayed the deployment of additional law enforcement officers by sitting on the sign-off of appointment certificates. Without doubt, what is absent in the state of policing in the province is the addressing of inefficacies by the lead police agency – (mis)managed by Cele. Misconstruing facts, as attempted by the ANC in the Western Cape, underestimates the crisis we have with policing inadequacies and diverts attention away from the responsible authority, and with tremendous regret, this comes at the cost of the safety of every resident in the Western Cape.

Luke Akal is the acting chief of staff and head of media and research for the Western Cape provincial government.