“We are not winning the war on crime” admits SAPS

Parliament rebukes unprepared police

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Photo of SAPS station
Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

What was meant to be a report by South African Police Services (SAPS) on its Anti-Gang Strategy in three key provinces turned into something of a damp squib on Tuesday when SAPS arrived at the meeting unprepared.

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Policing was instead treated to a report-back by the Hawks on violent crime, particularly in the Western Cape.

The members of SAPS attributed its failure to deliver the promised report to a breakdown in communication between itself and the committee. The committee dismissed the SAPS delegation, and is still waiting to hear the SAPS plan about the escalating gang warfare, which is spreading across the country.

Instead the committee heard the acting head of the Hawks, Major-General Pete Arendse, declare “we are not winning the war on crime”.

This further angered the committee. Chairperson Francois Beukman reminded Arendse that more than 12% of the national budget is allocated to fighting crime. “We do not accept any position that we are losing the fight against crime. We are spending R87-billion of taxpayers’ money on that,” he told Arendse.

The Hawks’ presentation presented confusing statistics on crime fighting which amounted to a confession that in the Western Cape between April and June 2017 there had been no arrests at all for possession of illegal firearms or the recovery thereof, and no arrests by the Priority Violent Crimes unit either. [Yet press statements received from Western Cape SAPS during this period appear to contradict this claim. - Editor]  

The disbelieving Committee was alarmed to hear that SAPS had nothing to show for its recent efforts in the gang- and crime-riddled Western Cape.

This come a day after 14-year-old Octavia Johanneson, a grade 9 learner at Crystal High in Hanover Park, was reportedly killed in a gang crossfire shooting.

Chris Nissen, the Western Cape Commissioner for the South African Human Rights Commission, told GroundUp “We received a call on Monday night that a young girl was shot in crossfire in Johnvlei Road, Hanover Park.”

Arendse was able to present some earlier statistics, saying that between March 2016 and March 2017, the National Bureau for Illegal Firearm Control made 26 arrests for firearm offences in the Western Cape but had only three successful convictions. The Priority Violent Crime unit made 27 arrests with seven successful convictions.

These two specialised units have been established within the Hawks to focus on drug crimes and the rapid increase in the use of illegal firearms. But the Committee heard that these units are staffed by members who have been drawn from elsewhere in SAPS. This led members to express concern about general staffing capacity in SAPS and they asked whether these units have enough members.

Arends, who was standing in for the acting Hawks head, Lieutenant-General Yolisa Matakata while she is abroad, attributed this to labour disputes which have prevented new appointments in SAPS. He said these specialised units have 162 members, but all had been transferred from other units, which are also understaffed.

Committee member Zakhele Mbhele, who is the Democratic Alliance’s Shadow Minister of Police, said police are under-resourced and understaffed. Speaking to GroundUp, he said the failure of policing is chronic, especially in the Western Cape.

“This situation is exacerbated in the Western Cape by an especially acute shortage of manpower, given the unique challenges of drug-related crime and violence in the province.”

TOPICS:  Policing

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