Dear Cape Town
The following remarks were delivered today by Democratic Alliance (DA) Leader, Mmusi Maimane, in Bonteheuwel, Cape Town. Maimane was joined by DA Western Cape Provincial Leader, Bonginkosi Madikizela, and DA Western Cape Deputy Provincial Leader, Albert Fritz.
On Saturday night a young police officer was shot and killed in Delft while on duty. Two of his colleagues were wounded in the same incident. My deepest condolences go to the family of the fallen officer, and I pray for their strength and comfort in this time of grief.
Many communities across the Western Cape are under constant attack from gangsters, and a state of lawlessness has taken over the streets in these areas. The single biggest reason for this is the under-resourcing and under-capacitating of SAPS stations. This crisis has reached a point where the Western Cape government has decided to approach the courts in order to compel national government to deploy sufficient police resources.
There is no doubt that a lack of police visibility contributes directly to gang-related deaths in these communities. If a police officer could be around the next corner, criminals would not act with the brazen freedom that has seen them take over entire neighbourhoods.
While national government might be neglecting these areas, the DA governments of the Western Cape and the City of Cape Town will not sit idly by as people become victims to gang warfare and prisoners in their own homes. And so they have taken a number of steps to ensure a bigger law enforcement presence, better use of technology in fighting crime and better partnerships with the residents of these affected communities.
Today I visited the community of Bonteheuwel and I saw, first-hand, the difference that visible law enforcement can make in an area under siege from criminals.
Bonteheuwel doesn’t have its own police station. It falls under Bishop Lavis SAPS, but this station also has to cater for the communities of Montana, Charlesville, Valhalla Park, Nooitgedacht, Freedom Farm, Kalksteenfontein 1 and 2, Netreg and Bishop Lavis itself. Each shift only has two vans with two police officers per van to serve this entire area. This is clearly insufficient, and so the City of Cape Town took the decision to deploy 100 of its Metro Police officers here to bolster the police presence.
Since the City of Cape Town launched the Neighbourhood Safety Team in Bonteheuwel on the 2nd of July, the effect on gang crime has been remarkable. This NST comprises 100 Law Enforcement Officers deployed in two shifts of 50 each, and they provide a permanent presence on the streets of Bonteheuwel. This ever-present “Bobby on the Beat” clearly makes criminals think twice.
In the first half of the year, from January until the launch of the NST programme, Bonteheuwel had 44 gang-related murders. Since 2 July there has not been one gang-murder in Bonteheuwel.
While more still needs to be done in the fight against gangs in the Western Cape, the NST programme is clearly a good start. And with the intended roll-out of similar Neighbourhood Safety Teams across other areas of Cape Town, we can begin to mitigate against the ongoing understaffing of SAPS stations by national government in this province. The City has already employed an additional 700 Metro Police officers, and the intention is to increase the Metro Police numbers by 1000 officers per year for the next three years.
Along with this the City also makes use of Shot-Spotter technology to trace the source of gunfire, as well as a network of CCTV cameras.
I also welcome the decision to deploy the SANDF to some of the Western Cape’s worst-hit areas. The DA has been calling for this for years, and too many innocent residents in these areas have already fallen victim to gang violence while waiting for this deployment.
The permanent solution, however, lies in turning SAPS into a well-trained, well-staffed, well-equipped and highly motivated crime fighting unit, and decentralising the Police Service, handing more control to the Provincial and Local governments.
Where Cities and Provinces are up to the task, we should follow international trends by locating crime-fighting command as close to the affected communities as possible. The top-down approach clearly hasn’t worked, and decisions taken in Pretoria are often completely out of touch with the needs of the communities. It also makes community/police teamwork – normally a highly effective crime fighting tool – extremely difficult.
We also need to make the safety of our rural communities a priority by re-establishing the rural safety units. Our farmers and farmworkers deserve the protection of the state, and we should all be outraged at the level of violence directed towards them by criminals.
Then we need to urgently address the four U’s that currently hamper the fight against crime across South Africa. These are under-training, under-staffing, under-resourcing and under-equipping. We need to attract the right kind of candidate, offer the right kind of training, ensure that all our stations are properly equipped and direct sufficient resources toward protecting our citizens, and not only protecting our politicians. We can’t have millions spent on the VIP protection and multi-car blue light convoys of MECs and Ministers, while the residents here have only two police vans per shift. This is simply not fair, and for this reason you will not see any DA governments making use of blue light convoys.
Until we have addressed these 4 U’s, however, the DA will continue to work with what we do have control over in order to bring peace and safety to the communities where we govern. We will continue to make DA-led Metro Police Departments the most effective in the country. This is evident in the City of Johannesburg, where Mayor Mashaba’s decision to appoint an experienced leader at the helm of the Metro Police, as well as recruiting an additional 1500 JMPD members, has already born fruit.
In Tshwane, the Metro Police’s anti-hijack team now has the use of a fleet of BMWs that were originally bought by the previous ANC government for politicians. And in NMB the City, while under the control of the DA, built a brand new Metro Police Department from scratch. Within two years, NMB had 154 Metro Police officers, 3 satellite stations, 10 vehicles, a bicycle unit, a plainclothes squad and a 24-hour call centre.
“Localise, professionalise, specialise” has always been the DA’s approach to policing – first in the Cape Town Metro, and more recently in Gauteng’s Metros as well as in NMB. It is something we will continue to push for – both in terms of expanding the footprint of our Metro Police Departments into crime-affected areas, and in calling for SAPS to become decentralised, with Provinces and Metros taking over many of the responsibilities.
If ever you needed convincing that a highly visible, locally controlled police service is the right way forward, just look at the early success of this Neighbourhood Safety Team here in Bonteheuwel.