On Tuesday, 30 August 2019, the Minister of Community Safety, Albert Fritz, received the report on the ‘Complaint of Poor Response’ at the Gansbaai, Kleinmond, Hermanus and Stanford SAPS stations from the Western Cape Police Ombudsman, Mr JJ Brand. Amongst the criminal activities plaguing the Overstand is the poaching of abalone.
The Western Cape 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 any community. It is an impartial and independent body created in terms of Section 206 of the Constitution.
Minister Fritz said, “The complaint about police inefficiencies in the areas was found by the police ombudsman to be substantiated. The Western Cape Police Ombudsman has now submitted his report to me in my capacity as the Minister of Community Safety as per the requirements set out in Section 17(8) of the Western Cape Community Safety Act, 2013,”
The following recommendations were made in the report, which I will give effect to:
1. Escalate the findings to the National Minister of Police
It was suggested that the matter be urgently referred to the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, to address the poor police to population ratio and vehicle allocations for detectives in the Overberg cluster.
The following recommendations were also made with reference to abalone poaching:
· Ensure that organised projects regarding poaching are initiated and investigated by the Organized Crime Unit of SAPS. Abalone poaching should be classified as organised crime in terms of Section 16 of the South African Police Service Act, Act 68 of 1995;
· Establish an Environmental Court in consultation with the National Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development;
· Ensure that the National Integrated Strategy to Combat Wildlife Trafficking (NISCWT) be urgently submitted to National Cabinet for approval; and
· Categorise abalone poaching as a serious crime, in line with Rhino poaching.
2. Refer findings to the Standing Committee for Community Safety at the Western Cape Provincial Parliament
It was recommended that the current policing model be referred to the relevant Standing Committee as well as the approach taken by the province to determine whether sector policing is still applied in the Western Cape. This should be studied in line with the judgement in Social Justice Coalition and Others V Minister of Police and Others (EC03/2016)  ZAWCHC 181 (14 December 2018).
Minister Fritz said, “This report will be presented to the Provincial Standing Committee on Community Safety who will further review the report as per the Constitutional powers of such a multi-party committee. The Standing Committee may also call on any SAPS members to appear before it to further explain and account for the findings made by the Police Ombudsman.”
3. Recommendations directed to the Western Cape Government Departments
The recommendations further requested that:
· The Provincial Minister of Environmental Affairs address the backlog concerning the disposal of abalone at the storage facilities with the National Minister of Environmental Affairs and Fisheries; and
· The Department of Community Safety ensure an urgent improvement in the recruitment of accredited Neighbourhood Watch structures in the Overstrand area.
Minister Fritz said, “I would like to thank the Ombudsman for sharing these insightful recommendations which are rooted in empirical evidence. I will work closely with the necessary stakeholders to ensure that these recommendations are reviewed and implemented.”
Under the leadership of Minister Albert Fritz, the Department of Community Safety will continue to use every tool at its disposal to safeguard rural and urban communities in the Western Cape against poaching of any kind.