Deputy Minister of Police Bongani Mkongi said it was time for women to take the lead and be in senior positions in the country. He was speaking during a visit to Lentegeur police station last Friday.
The visit was a follow-up into an investigation launched after a video clip of a male police officer at the station allegedly manhandling a woman whose under-aged relative was arrested on drug-related charges, went viral on social media at the beginning of the year.
The clip allegedly only showed the police officer roughly removing the woman from the community service centre (charge office). The woman was allegedly abusive towards the officer, swearing at him. The officer subsequently laid a charge of crimen injuria against the woman and she has also been charged with assault of a police official and resisting arrest.
While the investigation has found that the officer had not acted unlawfully, the woman has been put on the Mitchell’s Plain Magistrate’s court’s diversion programme.
Before addressing those present, Mr Mkongi requested that the video be played again.
“We are assembled here today because of the video that we just viewed. I requested commanders before I speak to play that video in order for us to understand and visualise the conditions that we are facing in the police industry,” he said.
However, Mr Mkongi, from Gugulethu, said women in this country were under siege from men who were running amok using their muscular ability to demoralise women. He explained that the abuse of women had a history. “Men see women as something to bear children, cook, do washing and go to collect woods and fetch water. They (men) see them as sex objects, something to release their stress”, he said.
Mr Mkongi said gender inequality needed to be defeated. “In every sphere or corner of society (some) men are resisting equality with women whether consciously or unconsciously.”
He said his department was prepared to do everything in their power to transform the department and society. “President Jacob Zuma appointed me and Minister Fikile Mbalula to do that job (transform society) within two years. Our chance ends in 2019 – we must not work to be reappointed. We must work for change now. If we are not reappointed, let’s go back to the ground to make changes. Men are selfish when they are in higher positions. They forget that they were supported by women to be in these positions that they are in today,” he said, urging people to speak openly about transformation.
He also said current vacant posts for sector commanders must be filled by women.
Lynn Phillips, secretary of the Mitchell’s Plain Community Policing Forum (CPF), welcomed Mr Mkongi’s sentiments. However, she emphasised that crime in the area was escalating because of a lack of police visibility. “For the last two years since the new cluster commander took over, there is a high crime rate because of lack of communication between police and the CPF. We used to have eight sectors but now we’re left with only three of them. And you can imagine the huge burden of work that they (police) are faced with”, she said.
She highlighted gangsterism and housebreaking as particular areas of concern.
Mitchell’s Plain CPF Cluster chairperson Lucinda Evans described the visit as positive and giving hope to women. “The deputy minister talked about gender inequality. And if you look in the province, out of 16 cluster commanders, 14 of them are men and only two women. And also six general officers (men) and one female general commander,” she said.
Ms Evans concurred with the deputy minister that all the vacant positions for cluster commanders be filled by female officers.
But Major General Greg Goss, Mitchell’s Plain SAPS cluster commander, dismissed Ms Phillips’ allegations that there was a communication breakdown between them and the CPF. “I think there is a misunderstanding about our operation. If they have any problem they must feel free to come forward and table their grievances.”
He also agreed that senior vacant posts must be filled by women and urged the minister to recruit more female officers. “We have a shortage of female officers. I think it’s their responsibility (police department) to recruit more of them (women) to balance the numbers ,” he said.
Acting provincial commissioner Major General Mpumelelo Manci urged communities to work together with police to fight crime and gender violence.
“Child rape and murders must be rooted out of our communities. This is a battle that we need to fight together,” he said.