VIP protection money could be better spent - Zakhele Mbhele

6 220 members of specialised units could be employed in fight against drug and gang related crime, says DA

Money spent on VIP protection could fund 69 units to combat gang and drug crime

14 March 2016

While police stations across South Africa continue to suffer from a lack of resources and under-staffing, in the 2014/15 financial year almost R1 billion was spent on VIP protection. This makes it clear that the ANC government is not prioritising fighting crime, but rather protecting and feathering the nests of President Zuma’s bloated Executive. 

This money could be better spent on employing up to 6 220 members of specialised units to help turn the tide against drug and gang related crime, which disproportionally affects poor communities.

This money could also be used to hire: 

6 467 Detectives; or

6 879 Constables; or

5 437 Sergeants; or

4 335 Warrant Officers; or

3 426 Lieutenants.

Last week the Deputy Minister of Police, Maggie Sotyu, condemned the police for their inaction on the recent murder of Sinoxolo Mafevuka in Khayelitsha. What the Deputy Minster failed to mention is that it is her ministry's job to make sure they have the resources they need. 

In the Western Cape, the police-to-population ratio is in excess of 1 police officer to 700 residents in some of the most crime-ridden areas. This is compared to a national average of 1 police officer to every 328 people. 

Fighting crime is a matter of political will. On Friday, I witnessed first-hand how the Cape Town Metro Police Stabilisation Unit, which currently has 90 members, has been empowered by funding from the Western Cape government and the City of Cape Town to start turning the tide on crime in areas hardest hit. They have made progress in decreasing incidences of gang and drug-related shootings in areas such as Manenberg, which, between July and November, decreased the number of shootings in the area from an average of three shootings a day to one in four months. 

With the money spent on VIP protection, we could establish another 69 of these units across the country which would have a massive impact on crime reduction in communities such as Eldorado Park and Temba in Gauteng which are both in the top ten worst precincts for drug-related crime.

Nationally, drug-related crime continues to increase. Over the last ten years drug-related crime increased by 217.7%, over the last five years by 97.9% and since the dismantling of the specialised crime units in 2006, drug-related crime has increased by 178.9%. 

The success of the City of Cape Town’s Gang and Drug Task Team illustrates how political will and funding prioritisation that ensures adequate staffing, resourcing, equipping and training can make a meaningful impact on reducing crime. 

While the President has promised to re-establish specialised anti-drug and illegal firearm units in the police, as yet no plan of action has been made public. I have written to the Minister of Police, Nathi Nhleko, to request the details but to date have not received a response. 

There is clearly a lack of political will on the part of Zuma’s Executive to prioritise fighting crime in poor communities. It is high time the people in positions of power make the choice to better empower the police to protect the people of South Africa – not just VIPs.

Issued by Zakhele Mbhele, DA Shadow Minister of Police, 14 March 2016