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Lack of intergovernmental coordination highlighted at crime summit

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By Anees Teladia

A crime summit, which many deem to have been productive and successful, took place in Paarl this past weekend. Members of several Community Policing Forums in the Western Cape were in attendance and brought numerous pressing crime-related issues to the table. While various resolutions were made at the summit, which encouraged and facilitated robust debate and engagement, there was wide consensus that the move to deploy the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) is appropriate given the context. The need for increased coordination between the three levels of government – national, provincial and local – was also put forward as a key issue hindering crime-fighting activity.

“This time around we could sit with ministers, provincial government and SALGA (South African Local Government Association) and jointly look at what is in the best interest for the communities…for government to work with us to fight crime in the long-term. We believe the summit, if everything goes according to plan, can go a long way in fighting crime in our province,” said acting chairperson of the Western Cape CPF board, Fransina Lukas.

“The state of emergency was one of our requests in the memorandum we delivered to the minister in parliament last week. We felt that in order to restore stability in gang infested areas, there must be a change in how things are done by government and law enforcement agencies. For that reason, we requested the army to come in to stabilise our areas – but we also acknowledge that we need to find community solutions for community problems, one of which is gangsterism.”

“There were diverse views [at the summit] but we agreed that in order to bring back stability, it [the SANDF] can be accepted as a short-term solution. However, we need more sustainable, long-term solutions [and] that can only be done when all three levels of government – provincial, national and local – are pooling resources together.”

Lukas also highlighted the issue of SAPS officers and other law enforcement bodies having to divert their attention from their primary mandates.

“Police cannot be social workers, firemen and ambulance escorts. You cannot have a police service that is not focusing on their mandate,” she said.

Elsies River CPF deputy chairperson, Imraahn Mukaddam reiterated the need for all spheres of government to work together in fighting crime in the Western Cape. He indicated that the divide between local law enforcement bodies and the national SAPS allows criminal organisations to flourish and exploit gaps in crime-fighting.

“All the forces need to realign in terms of strategy and be under one command. Crime prevention bodies should be driven by a core value and be on the same side. When law enforcement agencies are working across purposes it confuses communities and officers on the ground and creates opportunities for the enemy to take advantage of the chaos,” said Mukaddam.

He also indicated that in spite of his personal reservations regarding the deployment of the SANDF in communities, the situation in the Western Cape – which resembles “war-like” conditions and threatens the government’s legitimacy and sovereignty – fully justifies the deployment of the SANDF as a stabilising force multiplier.

“I don’t believe the army is the best – or most appropriate – solution, but if it stabilises and restores community faith in law enforcement…the call for the army is justified. I think we will all agree that the army is a force multiplier and shows the urgency with which government looks at the violence in the Western Cape.”

“Every single day there are massacres happening…When the sovereignty of our nation is being undermined by armed militias that are operating as parallel states in our communities and creating the kind of ‘regimes’ where people can’t move freely, it’s the role of the state to protect the interests of those communities. If it’s a war situation, it takes an army to fight a war.”

Mukaddam was surprised at the insight national government had relating to crime in the Western Cape and discovered that the solutions the CPF’s were ready to propose had already been discussed and put into the pipeline at a national level.

He explained that one of the key issues now is breaking down local and provincial governments’ resistance to the implementation of the various white papers, blueprints and programmes that the Ministry of Police has in place.

“We [as community members and organisations] need to channel our energies and frustrations. We are able to influence policy and strategy. We are able to make a difference – it just takes active citizenship.”

VOC


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