Cape Flats a war zone

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Fadiel Adams, Cape Coloured Congress president

By any international measure I live in a war zone.

This weekend over a dozen people were gunned down. It is my normal that the Cape Flats and the coloured people in general – live in a state of constant depression.

That every violent death we suffer can reasonably be blamed on the ANC is not in question.

We need more police officers, but at the rate they are dying that will not happen any time soon.

In any civilised country in the world, the death of a cop is met with the national flag flying at half-mast.

It is the ultimate sign of respect, of mourning.

That it does not happen here tells me that officers killed in the line of duty are not accorded the respect deserved.

It tells me that they are not mourned by this State.

That so many of our top police generals are caught up in corruption allegations and charges cannot inspire the troops. Can it?

So a depressed community is policed by a demotivated probably depressed police force. Anyone could foretell the results, anyone but our decision-makers.

I cannot leave our premier Alan Winde out of this conversation.

You did after all promise us 500 law enforcement officers in Mitchell’s Plain, Mr Winde. You received our votes, we never got the promised return on investment.

Some of these dead children may well still be alive if you had not lied.

But in your time as MEC for Economic Development you ensured that the old order was perpetuated.

As premier, you have simply stayed the course.

You, Mr Winde will be held accountable for these deaths by us, your constituency.

As head of local safety and security JP Smith had the audacity to tell me in the press, that safety and security was not his core concern.

He has since gone out of his way to prove that he is unconcerned.

It is what you get when you employ an information technology (IT) expert to ensure our physical safety.

He is more concerned with barking dogs than gunshots after all.

This mashing of incompetence is the reason our children have a short life expectancy.

The Cape Flats deserves better.

Alan Winde, Western Cape premier, responds

The violence that we have seen in Mitchell’s Plain over the past week is devastating and unacceptable and we send our condolences to those who have lost loved ones in these recent violent incidents.

As Mr Adams points out, SAPS is mandated to prevent and investigate crime, however, they are under-resourced in the province.

The Western Cape government has an oversight role to play in safety but has also had to step up into the gaps left by the national government and SAPS because we understand that residents are tired of living in fear, and want safe spaces to live and raise their families.

This is why the provincial government developed the safety plan.

It is targeted at boosting the numbers of law enforcement officers on the ground, and it is targeted at violence prevention strategies.

The safety plan is data-driven and evidence led and officers are deployed in areas where crime is the worst.

The claim in Mr Adams’ letter that this plan would roll out 500 additional officers to Mitchell’s Plain is incorrect. In total, we have trained and deployed 500 officers, with another 500 to be trained and deployed this year.

These officers will ultimately be deployed in area-based teams (ABT) to 10 crime hot spots.

The Department of Community Safety (DOCS) will be expediting the rollout of additional law enforcement resources and violence prevention efforts through the establishment of these teams in communities most affected by violent crime.

Mitchell’s Plain will be included in the second phase of ABT rollouts and to respond to the current spate of violence, we will temporarily deploy Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP) officers to the area.

During my state of the province address last month, I outlined how the provincial government is working to advance safety, dignity and wellbeing, and job creation. All three of these play an important role in violence prevention which builds safer communities.

Each department in our government has been tasked with a safety priority.

We have worked hard to build a better working relationship with SAPS and our DOCS supports neighbourhood watches who are important role-players in safety.

Our departments of Social Development and Education are also rolling out programmes aimed at changing violent behaviours and making schools safer.

Violence prevention is a long-term intervention and requires a whole of society approach.

I call on members of the public to work with us to fight crime and violence and to report information to their local SAPS, by calling Crime Stop on 086 001 0111 or using the TipOff function on the MySAPS cellphone application.

JP Smith, mayoral committee member for Safety and Security, responds:

It is painful to see Mr Adams seek to exploit the crisis of gang violence for petty point scoring.

The crisis in SAPS is not due to police officers being killed. It is due to sustained under-investment and budget starvation of the SAPS at the hands of the national government. This is why we are advocating for the control of SAPS to be moved to the Western Cape provincial government.

The death of every police officer at the hands of a criminal is a disgrace and this is why the City has an investigative unit that has worked with SAPS to ensure that no one who murders one of our officers is able to escape without justice.

This is also why we honour our fallen officers, so that we will not forget.

We have been at pains to explain that the Constitution assigns SAPS as the primary agency responsible for crime prevention and the City, as local government who does not control SAPS, is tasked with fire and emergency rescue services, traffic and by-law enforcement (and yes, this includes petty matters like barking dogs, parking fines and which is part of the job).

As it is, the steady disintegration of policing and the criminal justice system at the hands of the national government has increasingly caused the City to redirect more and more policing resources towards crime prevention with an estimated two thirds of our police work focusing on this national government’s competency.

This has come at the expense of the City effectively undertaking its core functions.

Metro police and law enforcement are increasingly undertaking special operations targeting gang, firearm and drug crime – as far as our resources allow, but they do not have investigative powers, like SAPS.

We do not control the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) or the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The statistics, which allow for evidence-led debate, show that officers are in fact on the ground and making a difference, in spite of Mr Adams’s perceptions to the contrary.

That said, we need more resources for all enforcement agencies but also greater parity between the arrest statistics and conviction statistics. Many of the successes we are able to report on come via community members and it’s disheartening for them to see perpetrators out on the street the very next day or week.

So if we are going to bolster community confidence and make a meaningful impact in the fight against crime, then there needs to be greater emphasis on effective prosecutions.

The bottom line is that the gang violence situation will not improve until SAPS, the NPA and the DOJ improve the conviction rate for gang violence and violent crime in general.

Unfortunately, none of the mechanisms that determine the outcome of a court case fall within the ambit of the City, but rather the national government, that is SAPS, NPA and DOJ.

The provincial government has delivered on 500 law enforcement officers now working in the most crime-plagued police precincts in the city.

Recruitment of the next 500 has already started and some of these are destined for Mitchell’s Plain.

If Mr Adams understood the facts around policing powers, responsibilities and realities on the ground, he would be spending his time helping to achieve this goal and not waste it fighting with people who are already helping to fix what others are breaking.