The Committee adopted Vote 4: Community Safety, in the schedule to the Western Cape Adjustments Appropriation (COVID-19) Bill [B4 – 2020], with only an opposition Member dissenting. The meeting took place on a virtual platform. The presentation from the Department covered the reprioritisation of funds and the strategies being used to ensure that communities were kept abreast of how to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Members asked how the adjustments to the budget would affect the neighbourhood watches, and safety partnerships and the K9 unit. They wanted to know what the impact of the alcohol ban had been, and whether the Department was taking action against people involved in brewing liquor in their homes. Had there been a reduction in crime? Had law enforcement officers been provided with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE)?
Concern was also expressed about the time allocations for Committee meetings, with Members agreeing that there was insufficient time to discuss issues fully with the Department.
The Chairperson said the meeting was focused on the deliberation, consideration and adoption of Vote 4: Community Safety, in the schedule to the Western Cape Adjustments Appropriation (COVID-19) Bill [B4 – 2020].
MEC for Community Safety in the Western Cape, Mr Albert Fritz, said the Department of Community Safety had suffered like many entities because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was difficult working in such conditions because there had been intensified land invasions, together with a spike in criminality figures in the province. The Department had thought of innovative ways to deal with such difficulties, and had deployed lead officers in targeted hotspot areas, rolled out a communication strategy involving SMS, radio billboards and social media posts in order to create awareness in communities. The physical safety of the people was of paramount importance.
After careful consideration, a net amount of R27.9 million had been surrendered by the Department in efforts to fight the pandemic. The amount was made up of R56.2 million surrendered through the baseline reductions, R2.83 million allocated from the Provincial Treasury (PT) for COVID-19 related relief, R8.6 million would be allocated to the neighbourhood watch and R1.5 million would be used for the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Department’s COVID-19 response
Adv Yashina Pillay, Acting Head: Department of Community Safety, presented a report outlining what the Department had been doing during the pandemic. This included the deployment of Chrysalis graduates and neighbourhood structures to shopping malls, South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) pay points, Home Affairs offices and health facilities. The monitoring of the South African Police Service’s (SAPS’s) implementation of their own regulations and protocols had also been done by the Department.
A partnership between the Departments of Community Safety, Health and the SAPS had yielded positive results in dealing with COVID-19. Community volunteers had also been briefed on how to deal with COVID-19, and the measures that could be taken to combat the virus.
The training of community members to assist victims had been successful, and this had been done with the help of the SAPS.
The Department had also been involved in engagement with the district municipalities, and providing support. It had engaged with the religious fraternity to support community-based solutions.
It had facilitated the certification of isolation and quarantine sites by the Department of Public Works (DPW) in support of SAPS members.
Other activities had included the monitoring of deployment, compliance, arrests and court appearances, and ongoing participation in the Provincial Joint Operational Centre (ProvJoc) meetings and briefings. The Department was also leading the targeted COVID-19 hotspot strategy in Khayelitsha and the eastern areas.
Mr Moegemat Frizlar, Chief Financial Officer (CFO): Department of Community Safety, presented the adjusted estimates of the Department. The programmes affected by the reduction of the budget were highlighted.
The Chairperson thanked the Department for the presentation and tabled the entire vote, which was in the blue book that had been emailed to Members on pages 55-58, and the annexures on pages 59-63.
Mr M Kama (ANC) asked if it would be possible to receive a copy of the presentation. He was worried how the Department was going to survive because of the budget cuts. He also asked about the impact of the increase on the neighbourhood watch, and to which areas they had been deployed. He referred to the safety partnerships that had been cut by R11 million, and wanted to know which partnerships had been affected.
The Chairperson responded to the question about the presentation, and said that it had been sent to Members via email.
Mr F Christians (ACDP) wanted to know the visible impact of the campaigns that had been carried out by the Department, and about the reduction in the youth religious safety programmes and whether there was enough money to roll out a meaningful programme in December. Would the reduction in funds have an impact on the K9 project? Did the Department have proof that there had been a reduction in crime? He asked for details of the money directed to neighbourhood watches, because they were doing more in the communities.
Ms A Bans (ANC) asked for a breakdown of the budget figures, the PPE situation and the service providers. Did the law enforcement officers have enough PPE?
Ms W Philander (DA) asked how the holistic approach of the alcohol ban had impacted the province.
The Chairperson followed up by asking if the Department was doing anything about people who were brewing alcohol in their homes.
Ms Pillay said that due to the pandemic, all departments had had to readjust their budgets and look at their books to see how they could play a part in assisting with the raising of funds. Day to day operational costs had been ceded and redirected to the COVID-19 relief fund.
Partnerships had been cut because there were different teams that played different roles during events.
Chrysalis had been unable to have a normal intake, and currently there were only 90 students because of the lockdown regulations, as they needed to maintain social distancing.
A detailed report on the neighbourhood watches would be provided to the Committee.
For youth safety and religious funding, there was enough money to run a programme in December/January, and there were talks about running an Easter programme.
The K9 unit was active in the city because no funding had been taken from it, and they were operating well.
The alcohol ban had resulted in a downward trajectory in murders since it was introduced, although it could not be said that the positive results were entirely due to the ban. Research was still being carried out on this.
The Western Cape Liquor Authority had been extremely active, and had carried out 97 investigations, of which 44 had come before the Liquor Licensing Tribunal, and licences had been suspended.
The media communications strategy had targeted aspects like the stigmatisation of the virus and community participation. It was community-based and was in isiXhosa. All mapping areas had been considered. The strategy targeted social media and local influencers, together with non-paid and paid influencers in order to get the message across to the communities, and articulated the five “golden rules.” Radio programmes had been used to discuss the pandemic, and this was yielding positive results. Posters had also been made use of by the City, especially in the hotspot areas. Billboards had been reinforced by the Department of Transport, and local vernacular newspapers had been targeted to spread the message across communities, together with bulk sms systems.
The impact of the media strategy was to achieve behavioural change amongst the people, and at this stage the important thing was looking at how transmission could be relayed to hotspot areas like Khayelitsha. However, at the moment there was no enough data to confirm that this strategy had entirely been achieved.
Mr Fritz said the Department was not entirely in support of a hard lockdown that banned alcohol, but was in favour of measures that could reduce the spread of COVID-19, and maybe selling alcohol between Mondays and Wednesdays for limited hours.
There were many challenges that the Department was facing, and the most important thing was to nurture relationships between departments so that they could work together to achieve a holistic approach. Civic organisations had also been pivotal in the drive against crime, because criminality affected communities at large. There was a need to have initiatives that could divert teenagers from crime-driven areas.
The Chairperson thanked the Department for the presentation and the engagement with the Committee, and excused them.
Mr Kama asked the Chairperson to review the time allocations for the presentations and meetings, because the Committee did not have enough time to raise questions. He also asked about the resolution that had been agreed to in the previous meeting, of having the City of Cape Town Law Enforcement make a presentation to the Committee if it formed part of the programme.
Ms Windvogel also supported the request by Mr Kama, and said the time allocations were not enough.
The Chairperson tabled the vote for Members to give their input.
Ms Philander and Mr G Bosman (DA) supported the vote.
Mr Kama evoked rule 90, and did not support the vote as a minority party.
The vote was adopted.
The meeting was adjourned.
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