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Speech Notes by Bobby Stevenson DA Shadow MEC for Safety and Liaison speaking on the Budget Vote for the Department of Safety and Liaison – 5th June 2014 

BY Bobby Stevenson MPL, DA Shadow MEC for Safety

Shake up necessary in SAPS to restore a climate of safety in the province.

  • Climate of fear in the Eastern Cape
  • Restructure the SAPS
  • Bring back the specialised units
  • Rural safety important
  • Crime stats need to be readily available

 

The citizens of this province want to experience true freedom. For the citizens of this province to be truly free and reach their potential they must feel safe in their homes and communities. Safety is important to create an environment in which we are free to work, play, love and live a dignified life.

 

As a result of the high crime rate in this province, the majority of South Africans live in fear. We are afraid to walk alone at night and our children can no longer play freely outside. We cannot take advantage of all our opportunities because this fear restricts us. Fear limits freedom.

 

According to the report of the perceptions of crime published by Stats SA, the citizens of the Eastern Cape are very afraid. A total of 80.2% of people in the Nelson Mandela Metro feel unsafe when it is dark. This number was the highest of all metros according to the report. 7.2% of households in the Eastern Cape carry weapons which is the highest percentage in the country. 41.9% - the highest levels of fear for assault were recorded in the Eastern Cape for the period 2013/2014. The fear of housebreak and burglary was also the highest in this province at 64.2%. Armed robbery was more likely to be feared most in the Eastern Cape at 56%. Living in a state of anxiety, high stress and fear is destructive to one’s wellbeing. All of us in this room know someone who has recently been a victim of crime.

 

The Department of Safety, as per our report, experiences great difficulty in holding the SAPS accountable and its recommendations are largely ignored. The DA believes we need a shake-up when it comes to the structuring of policing in this province.

 

Each Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS should be appointed by and directly report to the Executive of each province. Each Cluster Head of the SAPS should be appointed by the Provincial Commissioner in each province in consultation with the member of the Provincial Executive responsible for policing following a transparent appointment process. The National and Provincial Commissioners and all Provincial Cluster and Station Heads should be career police officers. Community policing forums should be able to conduct their own assessments of the performance of the local police service within their communities and these assessments should be fed into the performance review process for specific stations.  

 

The disbanding of specialised units over 10 years ago was an ill-fated decision which has resulted in the number of crimes escalating. These crimes require special focus because they are widespread and complex. I believe specialised units need to be created to focus on drugs, gang units, anti-corruption, anti-hijacking as well as rural safety units. To create a community-centred policing service, police stations should be more accountable to the communities in which they serve.

 

In the Nelson Mandela Bay area in particular, gangsters continue to run wild and daily there are reports of shootings. The drug lords continue to do their dirty business, wreaking havoc in the lives of young adults which in turn destroys families. We need to bring back the specialist anti-drug unit and anti-gang unit if we are to effectively get rid of this scourge in our society.

 

There was never a logical explanation for doing away with these specialised units. They need to be brought back as a matter of urgency. Many people, particularly in the Northern Areas of Port Elizabeth, who are suffering daily because of gangsterism and drug lords. The people of the Northern Areas deserve better.

 

It is not only the people in our metros who deserve to feel safer it is also our rural communities that deserve better. The numbers of farm attacks both on commercial and emerging farmers not only tear families apart but are also a threat to the country’s food security and threaten job creation in the agricultural sector.

 

The Democratic Alliance has repeatedly called for a new approach to rural safety that will put the protection of all rural communities at the heart of this approach. To ensure the safety of all farming communities the DA in national government would:

  1. 1.  Establish a specialised rural safety unit within the SAPS;
  2. 2.  Deploy specialised rural reaction units to identify rural hotspots on a rotating basis;
  3. 3.  Improve rural crime intelligence gathering; and
  4. 4.  Create a SAPS rural intelligence centre that would improve the gathering and analysing of rural safety information and thus better inform crime prevention initiatives.

 

It is clear that the lack of an effective rural safety plan is having a massive impact on our rural communities. I know that the SAPS in this province has developed a new Rural Strategy Plan which our Committee asked for but has yet to receive. I trust that some of the ideas that I have put forward have been embraced in this plan.

 

Then, there is the need for a metro police service. Nelson Mandela Bay does not have a municipal police service yet it is the crime capital of our province. Of the 10 police stations in the province that are ranked highest for the number of reported murders, robbery with aggravated circumstances, business burglary, residential burglary, car hijacking, house robbery business robbery, sexual offences, vast majority are located in the Nelson Mandela Metropole.

 

There is clearly a need for a municipal police service in the Nelson Mandela Metropole but progress is lacking. This metro should be the economic generator of jobs for our province. Nelson Mandela Bay has the highest official rate of all metros for unemployment at 33.1%. This means that it is simply not being the engine for economic growth that it should be. One of the biggest detractors to creating jobs is a high crime rate.

 

Crime in Nelson Mandela Bay is out of control. The lack of effective policing is destroying jobs, it is destroying families, it is destroying the future potential of our city. Yet citizens of this province, particularly in high crime areas, are deliberately kept in the dark. When it comes to crime statistics at community police forums you cannot get the crime statistics that are impacting on your community because the SAPS wants to keep us all in the dark just like Eskom.

 

Communities cannot come up with effective strategies to combat crime without hard data. This makes a mockery of sector forums and community police forums. In a democratic state it is unacceptable that the police continue to keep us in the dark. Crime statistics need to be made available on a regular basis.

 

Then there is the issue of the 10111 centres in our province. This is touched on in our report. The department needs to engage in more effective oversight over these 10111 centres. In a question which I recently asked with regard to the accepted norms in terms of response times for calls placed to 10111 centres, I was informed that the national average for alpha calls is 19 minutes and 5 seconds.

 

In our province for alpha calls the response time is 30 minutes. The response times need to be brought down. Residents, when they phone a 10111 centre deserve a quicker response. 10111 centres are our front line against the criminal element.

 

The final issue which I want to touch on is the lack of an updated website for this department. I have raised this issue for many years. It is totally unacceptable that the department cannot even manage a website. This is a modern day means of communication. A website should include updated information from the department, it should include strategies and tactics for running effective community police forums, it should contain a host of crime combatting strategies. It should also contain information about your local community police forum and who to contact.

 

In the Western Cape, if you click on the Department of Community Safety’s website you will find this information. There is no excuse for this not happening in our province. There is simply a lack of political will and political leadership to make it happen.

 

What the citizens of this province want is real freedom. They want the freedom to live in safety and security but this requires real leadership which is lacking when it comes to combatting crime in this province. Under a Democratic Alliance government we would engender a culture of real leadership in the SAPS. We would demand greater accountability and greater efficiency as well as ensuring a safer and better province for all our citizens.

 

Thank you.      

 June 05, 2015
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