Implementation of sections 19 & 21 of Western Cape Community Safety Act (2013): Department of Community Safety briefing

Community Safety, Cultural Affairs and Sport (WCPP)

01 October 2019
Chairperson: Mr R Allen (DA)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee was told that the Community Safety Act (S8) authorises the Department to collect information and maintain an integrated information system. This includes information from state institutions, security service providers and the police service.

Safety concerns of the province and reports from the South African Police Service (SAPS) and City of Cape Town Metro Police Service (MPS) were required in terms of S 19 and S 21. SAPS and MPS had been reporting quarterly for two years from April 2017 to March 2019.

The purpose of the Act was to oversee the effectiveness and efficiency of both SAPS and MPS, as well as to monitor the activities and progress of both entities. If any information was omitted from the report, the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) must inform the Standing Committee of this omission. The Committee should then request the Provincial Commissioner to appear before it to explain the failure to provide the necessary information. This report covered the period between April 2018 and March 2019.

Members asked about the efficiency and oversight of SAPS, and how the Department could make improvements in these areas, particularly in light of the on-going chaos which plagued various communities in the Western Cape. In light of the problem of SAPS being under-resourced in terms of manpower, they wanted to know how SAPS members were disciplined in cases of extended absenteeism -- if they got disciplined at all. It was asserted that the problem was that there was an undisciplined police force which was not respected or feared by the community, and which was poorly trained and unfit for office. They wanted to know what the Committee could do with their limited authority in order to ensure that corrective measures were taking place.

Meeting report

Implementation of Sections 19 and 21 of Western Cape Community Safety Act

Ms Amanda Dissel, Director: Policy and Research, Department of Community Safety, said the Community Safety Act (S8) authorises the Department to collect information and maintain an integrated information system. This includes information from state institutions, security service providers and the police service.

Safety concerns of the province and reports from the South African Police Service (SAPS) and City of Cape Town Metro Police Service (MPS) were required in terms of S 19 and S 21. SAPS and the MPS had been reporting quarterly for two years from April 2017 to March 2019.

The purpose of the Act was to oversee the effectiveness and efficiency of both SAPS and MPS, as well as to monitor the activities and progress of both entities. If any information was omitted from the report, the MEC must inform the Standing Committee of this omission. The Standing Committee should then request the Provincial Commissioner to appear before it to explain the failure to provide the necessary information.

This report covered the period between April 2018 and March 2019.

SAPS Reporting obligations (Section 19)

According to Section 19 of the Western Cape Community Safety Act of 2013, the Provincial Commissioner must provide the following information in writing on a quarterly basis:

  • the number of firearms issued to police officials which have been lost or stolen and the circumstances under which they have been lost or stolen;
  • the number of persons arrested by the police service, the number of cases relating to those arrests that have been referred to court, the number of those cases that have been prosecuted and the number of convictions in respect of those cases;
  • the allocation of funds and resources to safety objectives, the methods used to achieve the objectives and measurable outcomes achieved;
  • the number of disciplinary and criminal cases instituted against police officials, the names of those officials, the case reference numbers, the charges laid in respect thereof and the outcome of those cases;
  • the number and nature of complaints received by the police regarding poor service delivery and police misconduct, and how those complaints have been resolved;
  • statistical information regarding the number and nature of crimes reported to the police;
  • the circumstances regarding incidents where the police fire a weapon, allow a weapon to be fired, or order the firing of a weapon;
  • the number of cases reported in terms of section 29 of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) Act, 2011, and the outcome of the investigations into those cases;
  • any other matter, as may be prescribed, relating to police conduct, efficiency and effectiveness of the police service or relations between the police and the community.
  • the number of persons arrested by the municipal police service, the number of cases relating to those arrests that have been referred to court, the number of those cases that have been prosecuted and the number of convictions in respect of those cases.
  • The Portfolio Committee (PC) must also inform the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) “without delay” of the death of police officials in the execution of their duty, deaths caused by police officials in the execution of their duty, any death in police custody, and the circumstances under which they died.

MPS reporting obligations (Section 2`)

In section 21 of the same act, the reporting obligations conferred on the Metro Police Service require them to report on:

  • The number of firearms issued to police officials which have been lost or stolen and the circumstances under which they have been lost or stolen;
  • the number of persons arrested by the municipal police service;
  • the allocation of funds and resources to safety objectives, the methods used to achieve the objectives and measurable outcomes achieved;
  • the number of disciplinary and criminal cases instituted against police officials, the names of those officials, the case reference numbers, the charges laid in respect thereof and the outcome of those cases;
  • the number and nature of complaints received by the police regarding poor service delivery and police misconduct and how those complaints have been resolved;
  • statistical information regarding the number and nature of crimes reported to the police;
  • the circumstances regarding incidents where the police fires a weapon, allows a weapon to be fired or orders the firing of a weapon;
  • the number of cases reported in terms of section 29 of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate Act, 2011 and the outcome of the investigations into those cases; and
  • Any other matter, as may be prescribed, relating to police conduct, efficiency and effectiveness of the police service or relations between the police and the community.

Moreover, the Executive Head must inform the MEC “without delay” of the death of municipal police officials in the execution of their duties, deaths caused by municipal police officials in the execution of their duties, deaths in municipal police custody and the circumstances in which they died.

Operational statistics

During the period under review, 36 firearms were lost or stolen from SAPS, of which 33 were recovered. 23 of the firearms were stolen through the use of violence, and six were lost as a result of negligence.

There were 2 859 complaints received, most of which involved negligence and misconduct.

There were 34 disciplinary charges brought against SAPS. These charges included dishonesty, the misuse of a state vehicle, non-compliance with instructions and the loss of equipment. These were all Regulation 8 disciplinary cases.

There were 136 criminal cases brought against SAPS in the period under review, which included common assault, reckless or negligent driving, driving under the influence and theft.

Of the 136 cases, 85 were under investigation, 19 had been withdrawn, there had been one warrant of arrest and there were 16 cases currently on the court roll.

There had been 11 criminal charges brought against members of the MPS, which included murder, common assault, driving under the influence and culpable homicide. Of these 11 cases, nine were under investigation, and two had been reopened with a warrant of arrest.

There were three SAPS officials who had died, and 18 deaths which had occurred in police custody. Seven of the deaths had been as a result of police action.

Two deaths had occurred while in MPS custody, and three deaths had been the result of police action.

The crime statistics had not been made available in this report.

Discussion

Mr F Christians (ACDP) thanked the Department for the comprehensive report. The first question raised was about the efficiency and oversight of SAPS, and how the Department could make improvements in these areas, particularly in light of the on-going chaos which plagued various communities in the Western Cape. He said he was aware of the Committee’s ability to request a meeting with the Provincial Commissioner in cases where certain information was not included in the reports presented by the Department. Regardless of this ability, he wanted to know how the oversight activities of both the Department as well as the Committee could improve and make an impact on the operational efficiency of SAPS and the services they provided in these communities.

Mr M Kama (ANC) said he knew that SAPS themselves would be better equipped to answer certain questions raised by the Committee, as opposed to the Department. In light of this, and solely for the purposes of clarity, he asked the Department whether the report presented made reference only to Metro Police Services, or if it included the Municipal Police Services as well. Making reference to Table 6 in the presentation, he said that it seemed as if there was a target as to how many arrests needed to be made, and added that the number prosecutions was an important value which should not have been excluded.

Ms L Botha (DA) wanted to know how the content included in the report was being circulated to communities, and how soon these communities received this information. She also questioned the Department about the number of SAPS members who were on leave. She wanted to know about the correlation between the amount of firearms being lost or stolen, and the number of firearms being used for criminal activities. Finally, she asked the Department to address the issue of SAPS officials being on the payroll of gangs, as well as how many resignations had been filed prior to disciplinary action proceedings beginning.

Ms A Bans (ANC) said she was not aware of how much crime was going on within the police service, and wanted to understand why there had been such a major problem with absenteeism within SAPS, especially in light of the problem of SAPS being under-resourced in terms of man-power. She wanted to know how SAPS members were disciplined in cases of extended absenteeism -- if they got disciplined at all.

Mr P Marais (FF+) said that the real problem was that statistics were being presented to the Committee, but without solutions or suggestions as to how to reduce them. The problem was that there was an undisciplined police force, a police force that was not respected or feared by the community, and a police force which was poorly trained and unfit for office. In light of this, he wanted to know what the Committee could do with their limited authority in order to ensure that corrective measures were taking place. The Committee should explore the legal options available to force the national Minister to take the recommendations of the Committee seriously, in order to change the landscape of community-based crime in the Western Cape province.

Ms R Windvogel (ANC) wanted to know which powers were held by the Department to ensure that correctional measures were taken, as well as what the Department’s role was in the court watching briefs. She then echoed the question raised by Ms Botha regarding the firearms.

Mr G Bosman (DA) asked the Department if they were able to provide more information regarding how many firearms got lost, stolen or destroyed. He was concerned at the trend of SAPS members not complying with instructions, and wanted to know how many of these instructions were legal, and at which level within SAPS itself there had been the least compliance with instructions.

The Chairperson thanked the Committee for their questions, and said that the Committee would have to call the Provincial Commissioner to appear. He looked forward to this meeting.

Department’s response

Mr Albert Fritz, Western Cape Provincial Minister of Community Safety, responded to majority of the questions raised by the Committee. He concurred with the points raised by Mr Christians, and said that the conduct of SAPS had been unacceptable, and that he had been exploring ways in which to hold them to account, which included legal options. Nonetheless, despite the negative occurrences of late, the recent appointment of a new Provincial Commissioner gave the Department and the Committee a great opportunity to improve interactions and develop a working relationship with the Commissioner in order to get the information they needed.

The Minister said that there had been an on-going discussion regarding the fact that police stations were under-resourced, and that this challenge was one which needed to be addressed soon. Furthermore, the issue of absenteeism was related to a greater issue -- the lack of discipline.

Ms Bans commended the Minister for making a continuous conscious effort to address the Committee’s concerns.

Mr Christians wanted to know if the Committee could influence the efficient use of resources in future through the Minister, should he meet with the Provincial Commissioner.

The Minster said he was very optimistic that with the appointment of the new Provincial Commissioner, he would be able to hold weekly meetings, and that the Committee would be able to work with the Minister as well as the Provincial Commissioner in order to improve efficiency.

Mr Gideon Morris, Head: Department of Community Safety, said he felt that the use of reports and analysis of statistics could improve oversight, as these could be a tool for the measurement of progression. Addressing the question that was raised by Mr Kama, he said that currently the report includes data only from the Metro Police Service in the City of Cape Town, because there were no other municipal police services present, as envisaged in section 64 of the Police Services Act.

Regarding the targeted number of arrests, he said that this was a question of the capacity of the province, and although the Department did not follow the prosecution processes of each arrest, it would be accurate to say that on average, every two of ten arrests were followed by prosecution. The report which was presented by the Department had not been available to the communities because the Department felt that it would only further harm the public perception of the police, and this was why the information included in the report was considered to be confidential. The Department had no information regarding the involvement of SAPS members with gangs, but this would be a criminal offence of corruption. 

Mr G Bosman (DA) inquired about the confidentiality of the document, since this was an open meeting and the meeting report would be on the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) website, along with the documents presented.

Mr Marais wanted to know if the Committee could request from the National Legislature that more power be given to the Provincial Commissioner to deal with the issues faced by the province.

Ms Windvogel asked the Department if they had a specific number of the firearms which had gone missing

Mr Morris said that the Constitution was very clear -- the national Minister and Commissioner stand in control of the police, but it also mandates the Provincial Commissioners to have control in their own provinces, and that this Provisional Commissioner was to be held accountable by the Committee. It was by these means, therefore, that the Committee would be able to set certain standards of performance.

The meeting was adjourned.

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