Replace Bheki Cele with someone who cares – Dan Plato

Cape Town mayor says it is shameful that minister can stand on a stage and lie to those in blue

Mayor Dan Plato calls on President Ramaphosa to recall and replace Minister Cele with someone who cares about policing

13 October 2021

‘It is time that President Ramaphosa acknowledge the complete failure of Minister Cele to contribute anything positive to policing in South Africa, and recall him. South Africa deserves a police minister who cares about policing and cares about making the lives of South Africans safer. If the President leaves Minister Cele where he is, then it is clear that he does not really care about protecting the people of this country either. At local government level we have had to shift an increasing amount of our budget into safety services to try and make up for national government’s ongoing neglect of this key sector. Those are funds that could have been spent on other services but which we absolutely have to re-direct towards increasing safety services.’ said Executive Mayor of Cape Town, Dan Plato.

Since 2018, the number of police in the Western Cape has decreased, while the population has increased, along with their policing needs. In 2021, SAPS reported that they had 19 391 SAPS staff – 511 less than the 2018 total of 19 902 personnel. The 2018 figure was already an indication of the major resource shortages facing the SAPS in the Western Cape, and based on the under reporting of these figures as picked up at the Grassy Park and other police stations it is likely that the actual policing numbers are even less in the Cape.

The shortage of SAPS staff and equipment is well known to any community member or safety activist that works with SAPS.  This deficit lies at the heart of the crime hardships our communities experience.  This is especially true for the less visible parts of the criminal justice system, like the detectives, which routinely have a case load in excess of 200 cases each. This was again reported to the authorities at a public meeting in Grassy Park last month.  The truth is that no detective can handle more than 20 or 25 cases at the most and any detective with 200 cases can at best investigate 20 of them and will inevitably fail to get results in the other 180, no matter how dedicated they are.  The failure this creates in the criminal justice system ensures that limited policing resources are even further overwhelmed by the repeat offenders and career criminals.

‘As dire as the situation is, national government is making it worse with significant cuts to the police budgets over the next three years.  These budget cuts that were approved by national government are projected to be a decrease in total budget by R11,9 billion over the next three years.

‘When one understands that these budget cuts could have been avoided if the national budget was not squandered on bailouts, failing SOEs or lost to looting and theft, then it feels like national government must be oblivious to the safety needs of our residents and the pain of the victims of crime.

‘How do they justify shrinking resources when communities face an increase in crime? Failure to make the safety of residents a priority is outright criminal, and shows how little the national minister cares for citizens despite the shameful spin of the national minister and his colleagues,’ said Alderman JP Smith.

All of the most crime-affected policing stations in Cape Town have seen a decrease in resources, a state of decline seen in other key national government run services, including rail and electricity.

In an oversight visit to SAPS Grassy Park at the end of September 2021, Reagen Allen, Western Cape Provincial Parliament member, discovered that this station had far less staffing numbers than what was indicated in the policing statistics. The statistics stated that Grassy Park Police Station has 162 police staff, but in reality, there is only 116 staff members at the station. Two weeks later Alderman Smith attending a community meeting at another police station where senior officers advised that their station capacity was at just over 70%.  This week residents in a public meeting in Heideveld informed the City that their local police station was suffering from a staff shortage.

Meanwhile, the City of Cape Town has increased its overall Safety and Security budget by 55% in 2021/22 compared to 2016.

Between 2019-2023, the City and Western Cape Government are investing R1,7 billion to rapidly grow law enforcement resources in crime hotpots through the Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP).

The City is on track to deliver an additional 1 000 Law Enforcement officers through LEAP by the end of October 2021, with the first 500 deployed to targeted hotspots in February 2020. Areas set to benefit include Mitchells Plain, Gugulethu, Kraaifontein, Mfuleni, Harare, Nyanga, Khayelitsha Site B, Delft, Hanover Park and Bishop Lavis.

Our increased safety investment since 2016 has led to:

- Law Enforcement more than tripling its arrest rate

- Metro Police making over 7 000 drug arrests, and confiscating over 113 400 drug units, 277 firearms, and 4346 ammunition rounds

- Doubling of our CCTV network, from 433 cameras to 835, with a further 600 private cameras registered with us, leading to a record 15 390 incidents captured and 267 arrests in 2020/21, 50% of these drug-related

And together with communities, we’ve been building Cape Town’s Neighbourhood Watch (NHW) network for 15 years. This includes training, accrediting and equipping them to serve as “force multipliers”.

We have trebled the number of wards where we are supporting NHWs, with 4 250 units of equipment worth R20 million distributed since 2016.

‘The statistics are self-evident: the City prioritises the safety of residents and we are seeing the results of this investment.

‘Now we need national government to devolve more policing powers and resources for well-run municipalities to keep communities safer. And above all, we need the commitment of all stakeholders to fix what is broken in our criminal justice system.

‘I would also be remiss if I failed to point out that the argument of citizens and the City is not with the SAPS officers.  There are many good people in SAPS who are trying very hard to do their work and fight crime.  The problem is with the resource starvation and budget cuts that is preventing SAPS from serving the people and making them safer,’ said Alderman Smith.

Issued by Media Office, City of Cape Town, 13 October 2021