Stats reflect leadership void

Police Minister Bheki Cele has released the crime statistics for the 2017/2018 financial year.

The almost year-long absence of Mitchell’s Plain station commander Brigadier Cass Goolam has landed the police station among the country’s top-30 for violent crime, says the local community police forum.

The forum was reacting to Police Minister Bheki Cele’s release, last week, of the national crime statistics.

Tracking the period from April 1 last year to March this year, they paint a grim picture of crime in South Africa, with 20 336 murders reported – a 6% hike in the country’s murder rate.

The increase in Mitchell’s Plain’s murder rate is much higher than that: the precinct has recorded a 35.9% increase in murders, from 103 to 140 cases.

Brigadier Goolam and 13 other police officers were suspended last year following the disappearance of 15 state-issued 9mm pistols from the station (“Missing guns probe,” Plainsman, September 20 2017).

They returned to work on November 23 last year. Two of the 15 guns were recovered and two arrests made in connection with the missing guns. And five of the 14 senior police officers were dismissed (“Suspended cops back on the beat,” Plainsman, November 29 2017).

But Brigadier Goolam held on to his job. While the police investigation into the missing guns continues, sources say Brigadier Goolam was cleared of all charges, although SAPS has not confirmed that. Brigadier Goolam, however, was again suspended in April of this year for two months without pay. According to sources, this was because he spoke to the media without permission.

He is now back at his post, but Colonel Jacobus Philip Fredericks has been acting station commander as Brigadier Goolam is on a six-week-long training course and is expected back at the station next month.

Apart from the high murder rate in Mitchell’s Plain, other contact crimes also have the CPF worried.

The sexual offences category climbed 36%, from 193 to 200 cases. The category includes rape (of which 103 were reported, down by 1 case) and sexual assault, which is up 11.5% from 78 to 87 cases – that figure put the station number one in the country for that crime.

Attempted murder is up 70.8%, from 144 to 246 cases, putting Mitchell’s Plain second in the country for this crime.

Assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm (GBH) is up 4%, from 568 to 594 cases.

The precinct had the leading number of common assault cases at 1 574, which is a drop of 418 cases from 1 992 cases reported, when the brigadier was in office.

It had the most contact-related crimes listed at 1 055 cases, which has dropped by 191 cases, within a year.

Malicious damage to property crime reports totalled 1 028 cases, which also dropped by 187 cases.

CPF chairman Abie Isaacs said provincial SAPS had failed to lead an anti-crime strategy and the community’s concerns had been ignored.

“Yes, there is Operation Thunder, a national strategy, which needs to fall in line with the provincial and station’s strategy,” he said.

The operation – launched in Portland in May – is meant to quell gang violence and fight other serious crimes on the Cape Flats.

But Mr Isaacs said having an anti-crime strategy without a commander to lead it was like having thunder without lightning.

“We never had a station commander consistently, since September last year,” he said, adding that the police simply didn’t have the resources they needed to their job.

Last month national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khehla John Sithole, speaking at the memorial service of three slain police officers at the Tafelsig church, said there were not enough police to meet the UN standard of one police officer for every 220 people (“’Let’s build an army to fight crime’,” Plainsman August 29).

Ewald Botha, spokesman for Community Safety MEC Dan Plato, says it’s well known that the Western Cape with one police officer for every 509 citizens is well below the national average of 1:369.

Mr Isaacs said just like employees were contracted to meet certain targets, so should the provincial police commissioner.

“We are supporting the call from several communities on the Cape Flats, who are gearing up for ‘a mass shutdown’ Wednesday October 3, calling for an end to crime and gang violence,” he said.

He said the CPF had to support the police to prevent crime and run prevention programmes, one of which will be the 11th Mitchell’s Plain SAPS Marching and Drilling competition to be held at the Soccer Oval, at the Stephen Reagan sports field in Westridge on Saturday October 13, from 8am.

“We cannot have a situation where violence becomes the ultimate call. We have to work within the framework of the law,” he said.

Mitchell’s Plain police spokesman Captain Ian Williams said the police had a working relationship with the CPF and all safety structures, which included sub-forums, street committees and neighbourhood watch.