The Western Cape experiences serious gang and drug related violence. In a positive development, the Police Minister earlier this year announced that the SAPS would be considering re-establishing specialised units. Today’s reply to Parliament however appears that the Minister has made a u-turn and that the SAPS has no intention of re-establishing these much needed units in the coming year. I will now be requesting a report from the Minister on whether he will establish specialised units and timelines in this regard.
On 15 May this year, Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko, in his 2015/16 Budget Vote Speech said, “[i]n the coming financial year, we will also be placing a stronger emphasis on the need to review specialised units that are dedicated to fighting specific forms of crime and specialised investigations. We have heard the outcry of communities ravaged by drugs.” He said furthermore that, “taking into account that the commission of crime has become more specialized, advanced and sophisticated. Therefore our response should be a level higher than the criminals.” This move has been welcomed by Western Cape Minister of Community Safety and policing experts.
However, today in response to a Parliamentary Question, the Minister said, “There is no intention in the Annual Performance Plan 2015/2016 to reintroduce any additional specialised units.”
The decision by then Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi to disband specialised units for drugs substantially weakened the police’s ability to fight organised crime. The move was contrary to international best practice and the net result was that the expertise built up by these units were lost because officers became overburdened with investigating a multiplicity of crimes and the specialised focus was lost. Minister Mthethwa in the late 2000’s re-established the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences (FCS) unit following a RAPCAN study which showed that crimes against women and children could not be addressed by the new model. These re-established units, whilst under-resourced, are producing results and showing what focussed policing can achieve. Having permanent, dedicated and equipped specialised capabilities can only help secure convictions.
For almost a decade now, civil society, the DA and the Western Cape Government have been appealing for the re-establishment of these units.
The reply to Parliament today shows that the Police Minister has not put words into action and in fact there is simply no intention of re-establishing specialised units in the coming year. The scourge of gangs and drugs cannot be willed away by lip-service, they require concerted, specialist responses. I will now be requesting a report from the Minister on whether he will establish specialised units and timelines in this regard.
DA Western Cape Spokesperson on Community Safety