The Western Cape government has demanded that Police Minister Bheki Cele deploy extra police officers and reservists to the province within six months to stop a wave of crime, gangsterism, and attacks on trains.
In a joint provincial cabinet statement, Premier Helen Zille said the Western Cape government and the City of Cape Town had one third less SA Police Service (SAPS) officers than the rest of the country, leaving ordinary citizens in neighbourhood watches and community policing forums to fill the gaps.
“The crisis is exacerbated by the lack of uptake or retention of police reservists, coupled with the huge spike in violent attacks to both our transport infrastructure and with respect to land occupations. This has left SAPS personnel in this province overwhelmed and demoralised,” said Zille.
For example, the City of Cape Town’s municipal law enforcement officers arrested more than 12 000 people in the past year, but they cannot take these arrests through the investigation and conviction process themselves.
That is the job of police officers, but with current staffing levels and vacancies, the police’s caseloads were too heavy.
Zille said conviction rates for gang-related crimes were as low as 2% in some precincts.
Nobody has been convicted for burning trains either, which have led to the loss of 175 carriages since 2015.
In a letter issued to Cele following Wednesday’s unanimous cabinet resolution, the Western Cape government demanded that:
Cele urgently allocates more police to the Western Cape
Police commissioner Khehla Sitole confirm that critical posts will be filled in six months; and
extra staff focus on gang-related crime, rail safety, attacks on schools, the protection of infrastructure and emergency services workers;
Public Order Policing.
The province will in turn assist with the funding of additional police reservists and will make 84 000 provincial government employees available to help police officers with administrative relief work at police stations.
So far, it has set up 231 neighbourhood watches with 16 400 accredited members. It has also allocated R3.2m to support community policing forums and trained 640 youths annually at the Chyralis Academy.
It spent R22m on school holiday programmes for 100 000 children over the past six years and has more than 2 000 parents doing “walking buses”, where volunteers walk children to school in 75 areas.
The transport and public works department has also committed its R16m share towards training 100 rail safety officers with the City and the Passenger Rail Association of SA, and other programmes include dealing with alcohol harm reduction and extra lighting.
“Despite all of these efforts, there remains an intractable problem with those categories of crime that require a specialised policing response, and proper resourcing of the SAPS,” said Zille.
On Monday, Cele said an anti-gang unit was already operating in Hanover Park following the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Amierodeen Noordien last Friday.
Cele also promised the reintroduction of a specialised unit to combat gang-related crimes when he addressed Total Shutdown protesters in the city last week.