SAPS Provincial Commissioners on consolidated Action Plans; with Deputy Minister

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30 October 2019
Chairperson: Ms T Joemat-Pettersson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Portfolio Committee on Police received presentations on the action plans of the police services of the Western Cape, Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal. The SA Police Service (SAPS) delegation was led by the Deputy Minister, National Commissioner and Provincial Commissioners of the provinces represented.

The presentation gave a broad overview of the crime situation and capabilities of the police for in the Western Cape. The province had seen an overall reduction in crime since 2014/15, although murder, attempted murder and aggravated robbery had increased. Factors contributing to crime and inhibiting the police’s ability to fight it were discussed, and the current focus of the police’s efforts were described.

Members and representatives of the police force agreed that the solution to the crime problems in the Western Cape would require collaboration between different departments and levels of government. The spatial legacy of apartheid continued to be a factor. Questions about whistle-blower protection and gangsterism were discussed in detail. Members asked many questions about the details of the police force’s implementation of its action plan, most of which could not be answered because of insufficient time.

The presentations for Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal were given together to save time. Gauteng was experiencing rapid population growth, while the size of the police force was actually shrinking. Additionally, the number of events, such as sports matches that were being policed, was also increasing. The presentation discussed priority crimes in Gauteng and existing measures for combating them, as well as the police force’s short, medium and long-term plan for moving from stabilisation to normalisation of policing in crime hotspots in the province.

The overall trend in serious crime in Kwazulu-Natal over the last ten years was a decrease, although there had been an increase from 2017/18 to 2018/19, with sexual offences showing a worrying increase. The province had been divided into four zones, each with a suitable Commander and tactical teams. The presentation compared the statistics for the first six months of 2019/20 with the same period of the previous year, and indicated certain best practices that were being implemented.

As in the Western Cape, it was widely agreed the solution to the crime problems in Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal would require collaboration between different departments and levels of government. Members asked questions about spending, vacancies and the command structure of the new zones in Kwazulu-Natal. Attention was drawn to a serious drug problem in Protea Glen. Very few of the Members’ questions could not be answered because of insufficient time. The Department undertook to answer questions in a report or during upcoming oversight visits by the Committee, and the Chairperson said that it would be necessary to hear from the provinces again to do justice to their reports.

A Draft Report on the declaration of the firearms amnesty was presented and adopted.

Meeting report

The Chairperson accepted apologies from the Minister of Police, Mr Bheki Cele, Deputy Minister, Mr Cassel Mathale (who was present for the latter part of the meeting), Dr P Groenewald (FF+), Mr A Whitfield (DA) and Mr A Shaik-Emam (NFP). She noted that the delegation from the South African Police Service (SAPS) included many high ranking officials including six Provincial Commissioners but no women.

Gen K Sitole, National Commissioner, SAPS, apologised for the gender representation of his delegation. He observed that 28 out of the 30 police stations with the highest crime rates were in the Western Cape, Gauteng or Kwazulu-Natal. He described a three stage high-level plan for bringing the crime rates in these priority areas under control: stabilisation, normalisation, and the return to ordinary day-to-day policing.

Presentation on the Western Cape Action Plan
Maj Gen Leon Rabie, SAPS Component Head: Strategic Management, said the province was hoping to meet the President’s target of reducing contact crime by 50% over the next ten years and gave a broad statement of intent for how this would be achieved. The Western Cape SAPS spent roughly 50% of its operational budget as of 25 October, roughly half way through the financial year. The figures did not include programmes being funded nationally, such as Operation Thunder. He gave a profile of the workforce, noting that 985 funded posts were unfilled. He also noted that there was a large percentage of high-mileage vehicles in the fleet. New vehicles were being procured.

Maj Gen Rabie gave a ten-year overview of 17 community-reported crimes. According to the overview, crime increased until 2014/15, after which time it decreased back to 2009/10 levels by 2019/20. However murder, attempted murder and aggravated robbery had all increased over the last three years.

Maj Gen Rabie discussed a wide range of factors that contributed to crime in the Western Cape and made it difficult to fight. For example, many offences were committed inside homes, gangsterism was rife, CCTV cameras were not always installed where they were needed most, the taxi industry was unregulated and the rail network was inadequate. Additionally the housing demand was not being met leading to mushrooming informal settlements, and there was a lack of spatial planning leading to areas which were very dangerous to police. An inter-departmental approach would be the only way to address these challenges.

Maj Gen Rabie outlined the current focus of the police force’s efforts. The key stabilisation programme was called Operation Lockdown. Nine priority police stations were identified, and efforts were focussed there. This sometimes caused an overflow of criminal activity to nearby areas, which were also being monitored. He ended with an overview of the police force’s key focus points for the rest of the financial year 2019/20.

Note: many of the Members’ questions could not be answered because of insufficient time.

The Chairperson announced there would be a Peace and Security Cluster Mini-Plenary on 7 November 2019. On 13 November 2019, there would be questions to the Minister. On 19 November 2019, the Committee proposed a joint meeting with a wide range of Committees. The presentation suggested the whole of Parliament might need to be included in this meeting.

Mr W Mafanya (EFF) agreed that the problems were such that a completely inter-departmental approach would be necessary. The problems were a legacy of apartheid structures which needed to be reversed.

The Chairperson told Gen Sitole that he would have a chance to speak to these departments at the meeting. Perhaps two meetings would be necessary.

Gen. Sitole replied that SAPS would give a presentation on root cause analysis at these meetings. If there was a national crime prevention framework, there would not be a need for this meeting. He said a national crime summit was required. There had been a rapid deterioration in the rail transport system in Kwazulu-Natal which was likely to have a serious impact on crime. Trains are late and excessively crowded. He had even heard that women were raped while standing in the trains. There were 1 100 officers who were going to graduate in December and they would be deployed in the Western Cape. It had been discovered that the Mfuleni police station was too far from the community, which was one reason why the crime rate was so high there.

Rev K Meshoe (ACDP) said the message from the increase in murder, attempted murder and aggravated robberies was that government was losing the fight against crime. How could government convince people that it was not losing? Or was it losing the fight?

Lt Gen SC Mfazi Acting Provincial Commissioner: Western Cape, assured the Committee there was a strategy in place. Repeat offenders should be arrested. Nyanga had had a decrease in murders. If the strategy was successful, there would be a reduction in murders.

Gen Sitole added that the police force was just one part of the criminal justice system. It should not be singled out because of the failures of the system as a whole. The public had mixed feelings about the fight against crime - a number of high-profile cases in the Western Cape had been solved within 72 hours.  The police made large numbers of arrests, but as long as the criminal justice system could not process the criminals, it would be under pressure to release them on parole, resulting in a recirculation of criminals into society.

Rev Meshoe asked who was responsible for putting CCTV cameras in places where they were not needed, instead of areas where the crime rate was highest.

Lt Gen Mfazi replied that Cape Town had been designated by the National Commissioner for smart policing. The CCTV systems were in the process of being optimised.

Gen Sitole added that the Safer City Plan would indicate where cameras should be installed.

Rev Meshoe said that community collaboration was important but people needed to know that their identities would be protected. Many people did not report crimes to the police because they did not trust them not to expose them to the criminals. For example, the police had failed to protect Thabiso Zulu, a whistle-blower who had exposed corruption. Were the police serious about protecting whistle-blowers?

Lt Gen Mfazi replied that the Crime Intelligence division had developed a turnaround strategy to ensure the safety of whistle-blowers. It was the responsibility of every individual.

Gen Sitole did not want to say too much about Thabiso Zulu but assured the Committee he had been and was being protected. The protection of whistle-blowers was technically not the responsibility of SAPS, but the National Prosecuting Authority.

Rev Meshoe complained about the slow pace of investigations. It was embarrassing when a person took a case to Afriforum which the police had been investigating for five years. There was under spending of R1 billion - could SAPS not increase its investigative capacity?

Lt Gen Mfazi agreed the matter was critical. It started with getting the basics of investigation right at the crime scene. The detective academy was an important matter which would be discussed in the coming months.

Rev Meshoe said that gangs in black townships were a new development. Previously it had only occurred in coloured areas. He asked if gang membership could be made a crime.

The Chairperson replied that the Prevention of Organised Crime Act did criminalise gang membership. The police needed to explain why it was not being enforced.

Rev Meshoe agreed. Even when the police had a lot of information about gangs and gang members in specific areas, it did not do anything.

Ms J Majozi (IFP) disagreed that gangsterism in black townships was a new development. There had always been gangs in Soweto and they were for responsible drugs and crime. Government needed to show how it was going to enforce the Act.

Lt Gen Mfazi acknowledged that enforcement of the Act was a problem. A geographical approach was required. The anti-gang units were entirely in-house and they were fully supported to identify and investigate gang activity. The anti-gang units represented a turning point in the fight against gangsterism. He explained the process of building a case against an important person involved in gangsterism was long and difficult.

Mr H Shembeni (EFF) asked about the vetting of anti-gang unit members.

Mr S Du Toit (FF+) asked why there was such a high number of vacancies, at the same time as the force was overworked.

Gen Sitole replied that the filling of vacancies was part of the normalisation stage.

Mr Du Toit asked if the R15m allocated for reservists was for all the provinces or just the Western Cape.

Lt Gen Mfazi replied that it was for all provinces but specifically the four most difficult provinces.

Ms Majozi agreed the support of all departments would be needed to tackle the problem. The police would not be able to solve it on its own. The rapes on trains were an example.

Gen Sitole agreed the police were just one part of the solution.

Ms Majozi asked whether the new vehicles and the newly graduating Constables would be deployed to the priority areas where most needed.

Lt Gen Mfazi replied that they would be deployed to priority areas.

Mr Shembeni asked when vehicles with more than 300 000km on the clock would be replaced.

Mr Shembeni asked how many of the 985 vacancies were detectives and how many were in visible policing.

Mr Mafanya said the purpose of the meeting was to hear directly from the provinces. He wanted to hear more from the provincial and less from the national leadership. The information being provided was too generic. The Committee needed specific information about, for example, actual illegal liquor outlets, actual CCTV installations, and actual drug activity.

Mr Mafanya said that society was exasperated by the unresponsiveness of the police. What was being done about rogue elements within the police force?

Ms S Patrein (ANC), speaking in Xhosa, asked why the Western Cape, outside of Cape Town, was not addressed in the report.

Ms P Faku (ANC) was impressed with the leadership in the Western Cape but said that Mitchell’s Plain remained a serious problem. What were the reasons for the high murder rates in areas like Nyanga and Delft? Nyanga police station was in a very dangerous place and she asked whether it could be moved to a safer location. What communication had taken place at provincial level between the police and other departments such as education and housing? The best police officers needed to be deployed in areas with the greatest need. She asked if the budget remaining for 2019/20 would be sufficient. She asked about the under spending in the budget for the middle of the financial year and the reason for this under spending.

Ms Faku asked the Department to look after the mental well-being of its staff. She had heard during her constituency work that the retreats were appreciated. She noted the moral regeneration of society was not the sole responsibility of the police. It started in families, schools and churches.

Ms M Molekwa (ANC) asked what specific plans were in place to enhance police visibility in the province including time-frames, particularly during the tourist season – she noted bodies had recently been found on Table Mountain. She asked about SAPS’s participation in the Department of Home Affairs’ stakeholder’s forum. She suggested the Provincial Commissioner establish a team to investigate the most difficult-to-police areas and make recommendations to the National Commissioner.

Ms N Peacock (ANC) welcomed the presentation but was unhappy that it did not include specific Key Performance Indicators, Key Performance Areas, a budget plan and a process plan. No plan for addressing identified root causes was presented. For example, taxis were identified as a problem but no plan was presented to solve it. She understood that collaboration with other departments might be necessary, but specific plans were necessary. In the Western Cape, spatial development was very important, and the police needed to work more closely with local government to address this. For example, municipalities had to assist the police in navigating informal settlements where there were no streets or street numbers.

Mr K Maphatsoe (ANC) appreciated the presentation and said it analysed the root causes and gave a plan for how to mitigate the crime problem. Apartheid spatial planning was the root cause of the higher crime rates in disadvantaged areas. It was important to involve the transport department. There were rumours that police officers were involved in creating the conflict between taxi operators. Criminals would move into an area if the police prioritised another area. No Commander should lead his officers into a situation where they would be massacred. The passenger rail situation needed to be addressed, but police could not be expected to guard every area. A permanent Commissioner for the Western Cape needed to be appointed to bring stability.

The Chairperson agreed that a permanent Commissioner was needed. She also said there was no synergy between SAPS and the Western Cape provincial government. The Premier was launching his own operations.

Presentation on the Gauteng and Kwazulu-Natal Action Plans
Maj Gen Rabie said the objectives and desired outcomes in Gauteng were similar to those in the Western Cape. Gauteng had experienced a 31.34% increase in population from 11.2 to 14.7 million since 2010. New police stations had been established, but funding was still insufficient and human resources had actually decreased since 2010. There were also more than 5 000 vacancies. He discussed the resources available at the 12 police stations with the highest crime rates. He identified seven more that required special intervention and 12 at which a Major General had been or would be placed. The figure for Soshanguve was a printing error: 106 in the “difference” column should have read 6. Since 2011, there had been a 500% increase in the number of events such as sports matches that had been policed, diverting a large amount of resources. There had also been a 300% increase in unrest events. He looked at the crime trends in the top 40 stations in Gauteng, showing mixed results. He listed the priority crimes, and outlined existing measures for combating them, and the police force’s short, medium and long-term plan for moving from stabilisation, to normalisation and finally maintenance phases.

The presentation document included a detailed implementation plan for Gauteng that was not presented because of time constraints.

Gen Sitole indicated the Gauteng police force had been restructured into districts instead of clusters.

Maj Gen Rabie gave a general profile of the police force in Kwazulu-Natal, and the trend in community-reported serious crime over the last ten years. The overall trend was a decrease, although there had been an increase from 2017/18 to 2018/19, with sexual offences showing a notable increase. He discussed the root causes of the increase in crime and outlined a five-pronged operational approach for dealing with them. The province had been divided into four zones, each with a suitable Commander and tactical teams. He looked at the interventions that had been implemented and the factors inhibiting their effectiveness. He compared the statistics for the first six months of 2019/20 with the same period of the previous year. He indicated certain best practices that were being implemented.

Note: many of the Members’ questions could not be answered because of insufficient time.

Mr O Terblanche (DA) said that under spending of the capital budget was a serious challenge at SAPS.

Mr Terblanche agreed the environmental design of cities was a problem. Had SAPS engaged with the Department of Public Works and local governments and authorities to address it? The challenge would still exist for many years, so the police would need a plan. He was concerned about the trend of policing by military-style operations. It might be necessary during the stabilisation phase but it should give way to normal policing. He asked why the Department was complaining about a shortage of personnel while at the same time ithad funded vacancies. Was it trying to save money? He was not convinced that deploying Major Generals to police stations was the best use of the Department’s budget. He thought it might be better to appoint more constables.

Mr Terblanche appreciated the number of arrests the police were making but asked how many had led to convictions. He asked why there was under-reporting of crime in some areas. He reminded the Department that the problem of firearms without licenses needed to be resolved. He remarked the presentations focused on what the police would do in the future. He wanted to know what was being done now. He added that the solutions presented did not amount to anything more than normal policing. Something had to be done about the crime increases in Kwazulu-Natal. He asked how the command structure of the zones in Kwazulu-Natal fitted into the existing command structures. Would Station Commanders still be responsible for crime in their areas?

Mr Maphatsoe noted that Protea Glen in Johannesburg had grown beyond expectations, and the police station was now far from the people. There had been many complaints about a Shell garage in Extension 11. There was a serious drug problem in the area. The police there were overwhelmed and he asked for the Amaberete Tactical Response Team to be deployed there.

Lt Gen E Mawela SAPS Provincial Commissioner: Gauteng, was aware of the problem in Protea Glen and had been engaging with the community. Officers had already been deployed and had made arrests.

Mr Mafanya reiterated his complaint that the Committee had not heard enough from the provinces themselves. It seemed as if the Department was speaking on behalf of the provinces.

Mr Maphatsoe noted that the presentations had been prepared by the provinces.

Deputy Minister Mathale and other members of the delegation indicated their agreement with Mr Maphatsoe.

An ANC Member said the Committee had not had enough time to engage fully with the presentations, and suggested that the Committee should go to the provinces. She also suggested that provinces should hold provincial summits before going to a national summit.

Gen Sitole agreed this would be a good idea. A summit had already been held in the Western Cape and the province was busy developing a provincial crime prevention framework.

Ms Peacock asked for a uniform reporting approach among the provinces in future presentations to the Committee.

The Chairperson said that if the President had called for a district development model, then the reporting mechanisms would have to be influenced by this model. The Committee would call the Provincial Commissioners again and it would also perform its oversight in the districts.

Lt Gen KE Jula, SAPS Provincial Commissioner: Kwazulu-Natal, acknowledged the suggestions of the Committee with regard to reporting. He said he would be ready to respond to any questions from the Committee that were specific to Kwazulu-Natal.

Lt Gen Mawela noted the questions and comments of the Committee. He said the province would be able to give a fuller presentation and responses during the Committee’s oversight visit in early December 2019.

Gen Sitole asked that the provinces be allowed to respond to the Members’ questions in a report and in oversight visits. Crime hotspots and the 30 police stations with the highest crime rates were a national priority. These needed to be stabilised. The day-to-day policing at other stations was a provincial priority. The profile of other stations, such as Rustenburg and Witbank, was changing rapidly, and he invited Members to provide details of similar stations in their constituencies so that the Department could respond.

The Chairperson said that because of the lack of time, another meeting with the same three provinces would have to be arranged.

Deputy Minister Mathale agreed.

Draft Report of the Committee on the Firearms Amnesty Declaration
The Chairperson presented the Draft Report of the Committee on the Firearms Amnesty Declaration for adoption.

Mr Terblanche indicated that the DA reserved its right not to support the Report.

The Report was adopted and the meeting was adjourned.

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