POOR law enforcement in the Chris Hani district came under the spotlight yesterday at the Eastern Cape’s “Taking Legislature to the People” sitting in Cofimvaba.
The legislature’s oversight committee on safety and liaison painted a bleak picture for the region.
Residents from the entire district came out in numbers to talk to provincial law makers and MECs. They brought complaints of police apathy, inaccessibility to justice, and limited resources on the part of law enforcement.
Too many times, they said, criminals were caught only to be released because police and prosecutors were not on the same page.
The residents also lambasted police for not responding to calls, misuse of police vehicles, and alleged collusion with criminal elements in their communities.
The committee’s report on policing in Chris Hani showed a lack of basics such as poor infrastructure, broken telephones and broken toilets.
Police officers reported for duty in a drunken state.
In many cases small stations were serving many people scattered across vast areas.
At the Bridge Camp station, the committee found the phone line had not worked in over a year, and administration staff were required to fight crime because of a high level of police vacancies.
According to crime stats released in September, nine murders were reported in the area between April 2010 and March 2011 – unchanged from the previous year. Sexual crimes showed a marginal increase from 18 to 21, attempted murder up from three to five, so too was robbery with aggravating circumstances from 17 to 22. Assault with the intent to commit grievous bodily harm (GBH) went down from 67 to 46 in 2010/2011. At the same station, which serves 90 000 people in four administrative areas, the committee also found a shortage of bullet-proof vests resulting in members having to fight crime without these lifesavers.
However, Safety MEC Helen August-Sauls said the Bridge Camp station had received new police vests after this report was released.
Holding cells at the same station were not functional due to a lack of water, and the use of solar power meant officers often worked by candlelight at night.
DA spokesman on safety Bobby Stevenson said technical challenges affected crime stats for the area. He said although this year’s crime stats recorded in the region of 270 reports of crime in the area, officers on the ground spoke of a rate of 50 a month.
The difference, they said, was that due to power outages and computer breakdowns, not all cases made it on to the system. “If it happens there it can happen at other stations, and the crime statistics for the whole province could be distorted.”
At Linge station, a prefabricated building serving 21 000 people from 26 villages, residents have to deal with lacklustre officials, who often miss work during winter. “The staff complement comprises aged personnel who, in the opinion of the cluster commander, cannot physically pursue young and energetic criminals in this area,” said the report.
Committee chairman Mninawa Nyusile declared the station to be in ICU, saying change would come before the end of the year.
He said the biggest concern for the committee in their September visit to the district was poor infrastructure, and a number of stations were even without water or reliable electricity.
“A number of stations are also using solar energy, which becomes useless in poor weather. This affects everything, from their computers to their phone lines, and makes it impossible to do work,” he said.