Our City is facing an unprecedented crisis, the figures presented by the SAPS to Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz last week show us that over the past 12 months there have been around 900 gang-related murders, substantially more than we have ever seen before.
As the City we, have been trying hard not to be critical of the SAPS or national government, but the unfair attack by Police Minister Cele last week, in which he attempted to shift the blame for the imploding police service, cannot go unchallenged.
Minister Cele only needs to spend some time in Bonteheuwel, Lavender Hill, Manenberg, Hanover Park, Delft and Khayelitsha to understand that the City of Cape Town is doing everything possible to help fix the problem of ongoing violence.
This is where most of our policing resources go, not in leafy suburbs as he wrongfully alleges.
I am well aware of the City’s metro police deployment in the poorest areas of Cape Town, not only because I fight tooth and nail to ensure that they are covered by metro police, traffic and law enforcement, but also because I join the enforcement agencies on crime-prevention operations and neighbourhood watch patrols.
Our mayor Dan Plato has significantly increased the policing resources in the City with the largest budget allocations we have seen since 2009/2010.
Over the next three years, this extra budget will allow us to deploy around 1200 new police officers across the city.
The vast majority of this allocation and previous additional budget has gone to enforcement aimed at areas of crime and gang violence.
We have deployed more CCTV cameras than any other city in South Africa, with more than 90% of these working at any time, despite high levels of vandalism.
There has been an attempt by Minister Cele to blame societal or environmental factors and thereby to shift blame for the poor policing outcomes to others.
The simple facts are that it is not possible to improve jobs, social development programmes and facilities in gang-affected communities when a war is waging on the streets.
On almost every measurable indicator, Cape Town is achieving better social circumstances than elsewhere in South Africa. We have created more jobs than anywhere in SA with more affordable collective municipal rates accounts and higher access to basic services than other cities.
Over the next year, we will see massive investment in the poorest areas, especially the gang-affected ones, this time through the mayor’s Urban Regeneration Programme.
However, the reality is that we cannot do this on our own.
The SAPS, which Minister Cele leads, has failed the Western Cape’s poorest communities. One only needs to speak to community members to ask them who responds when there is a shooting and they will tell you that metro police and law enforcement are there. They will also tell you that they are too scared to give the SAPS information, as they are often exposed Bonteheuwel as informants.
Whatever we may do, the City will never be able to solve the violence epidemic without national government adequately fulfilling its function and ensuring that Cape Town receives a fair share of policing resources, which are competently managed.
It is not the fault of the SAPS that they have far too few feet on the ground – there are many good officers in the SAPS desperately trying to fight crime, but the failure of Minister Cele is costing us thousands of lives.
We have been denied the deployment of the military repeatedly, but last week we learnt that the military has been deployed to guard water pipes in Gauteng.
In his outburst in Parliament, Minister Cele blamed crime on a “lack of street lights, toilets and CCTV cameras”. The facts show that communities in Cape Town have better access to these than anywhere else in SA.
This year it appears that as much as 60% of murders in this city will have been generated by gang homicides.
Toilets, lights and cameras will not fix this, no matter how hard Cele tries to shift the blame. Effective criminal investigations into gang homicides, arresting, charging and convicting gangsters is the only thing that will achieve lasting results.
These processes are constitutionally, in the sole control of the national ANC government.
However, they must admit that they cannot fulfil their constitutional competency to keep our people safe.
I appeal to Minster Cele and President Ramaphosa to serve the people of the Western Cape and devolve policing powers to the provincial government, as it is elsewhere in the modern world. The provincial government will then have the power to:
* Appoint competent people in charge, who are committed to fighting crime.
* Deploy adequate levels of police to protect communities.
* Oppose bail and improve conviction rates in gang-related cases to prevent the gangsters from being released immediately and terrorising the community.
It will use the Prevention of Organised Crime Act to seize the assets of gang bosses and will recruit skilled investigators and prosecutors to put these gang bosses in prison. We know what to do – it is time to let others take on what you have failed at, Minister Cele.
* JP Smith is mayco member for safety and security and a member of the DA Western Cape Executive Committee.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.