Speech Notes by Bobby Stevenson: Annual Report 2016-2017: Safety & Liaison. 29 November 2017

One of the key issues that need to be addressed is the long delay that it has taken to fill the HoD post. This has been unfilled for more than a year. The question that needs to be asked is why this post has remained vacant for so long?

This is the lead Department in the province when it comes to promoting safety and security. Its work efforts and vision impacts on the measures that all other departments adopt. The vacancy must be filled as a matter of urgency and I would like to ask the MEC, what plan is in place to fill this vacancy and when is it likely to be filled?

Another key issue which has emerged from the annual report is that the Bethelsdorp Police Station Community Police Forum (CPF) was disbanded by the National Leadership of the SAPS. I want to ask the MEC, what steps have been taken to ensure that that CPF is up and running. This CPF plays a critical role in a particularly high crime-ridden area. The Bethelsdorp CPF operates in an area which is plagued by gangsterism. It is one of the highest crime ridden areas of the province, and the CPF needs to be established once again as a matter of urgency.

The research by the Department has found that violence against women, children and the elderly is extremely high in the province. This is borne out by a question that I recently asked the MEC. Out of the 12 896 violations of domestic violence protection orders reported in the Eastern Cape over the last 3 financial years, only 1 934 cases were successfully prosecuted.

At the onset of the annual campaign of 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, these shocking figures highlight a web of terror that is trapping thousands of women in abusive relationships. I condemn this brutality in the strongest terms and call on everyone to take a united stand against this. Out of the 12 896 protection order cases reported over the last 3 years only, 9 334 arrests were made. It is disappointing that only 1 934 were successfully prosecuted.

Crimes against women and children will need to receive greater priority by the SAPS. There needs to be rapid response to calls for help so that the perpetrators of these ghastly deeds know that they will be nailed and jailed.

Earlier in this year, the South African Demographic and Health Survey showed that close to a third, 32% of women, in the Eastern Cape were victims of physical violence in a relationship. This exceeds both the national average and other provinces; the national average is 21%. The question that the Department needs to research is “why are cases of domestic violence in the Eastern Cape so high?”

Gender-based violence is becoming increasing phenomena in our province with more and more women falling victim to violent crimes. Violence against women has become one of the most prominent crimes in South Africa, and in many instances, the cases that are reported to the police often fall by the wayside with the minority of perpetrators facing the consequences for their actions. More needs to be done to curb the ongoing violence and crimes against women and children.

The Western Cape Government is taken a “community inclusive” approach to prevent violence against women through the Young Women and Girls Project, which is aimed at educating young girls about abuse and what action to take before the situation escalates.

We need to have educational programmes in our schools so both boys and girls are educated in this regard. Attitudes towards women are often formed at an early age.

I fully support the finding of the committee that the department must conduct an intensive monitoring of the implementation by the police of various programmes to combat violence. The Department must pull out all the stops to ensure that vulnerable persons are protected.

I can remember some years ago when the portfolio committee visited Canada to look at the issue of domestic violence which was high in the state of British Columbia. We were told that in Vancouver, there were high prevalences of domestic violence.

Some of the steps that were taken were to issue women with cell phones that were subject to domestic violence so that they could always summons help.

Furthermore, if you laid a complaint of domestic violence you weren’t allowed to withdraw it. This prevented frivolous claims being laid with the police.

Satellite Stations

I also fully support the recommendation in the annual report that the Provincial SAPS should engage with the National SAPS to lift the moratorium on establishing satellite police stations in communities that are desperate for more effective policing.

A case in point was the unrest and protest action placed this month, in regard to the Fountain Avenue Satellite Police Station being non-operational in Walmer Township.

When I visited that police station earlier on this year, at the request of the community, there was one, only one member of the SAPS present and he was on the way out to investigate a case. This satellite police station in Walmer Township needs to be properly resourced and properly staffed. There is a high crime rate in Walmer Township and residences want to know that there is a police station close to where they live. I also call on the SAPS to improve the visibility through more regular police patrols in that area.

This brings me on to the high crime rate in the province. It is clear from the release of the 2016/2017 statistics that the Eastern Cape is caught in the rip of a vicious crime wave that is striking fear into the hearts and minds of the people of this province.

This is a province with the highest murder rate in the country of 55.9 per 100 000, as well as the highest rape rate of 105.3 per 100 000. If you live in the Eastern Cape there is an expression “every person’s home is their castle”, has now become “every person’s home must be a fortress”. This is particularly so when one sees that robbery at residential premises is up by 5.7%, burglary at residential premises is up by 2%, theft out of motor vehicles is up 8.6%, stock theft is up by 7% and aggravated robbery is up by 7.1%.

People do not simply feel safe in their homes. My biggest fear is that there will be a rise in vigilantism due to poor police performance. We had the highest increase of all provinces in arson by 10.2%, malicious damage to property at 2.1%, theft out of motor vehicles the highest at 8.6% and contact related crime the highest up by 2.5%. Life and property in the Eastern Cape are simply not valued. The burn-and-loot culture is growing in our society.

There is some relief that sexual offences are down overall by 8.5% and assault GBH is down by 6.4%, as well as the improvement in crimes related to police detection, such as drug-related crimes and illegal possession of ammunition and firearms.

Drastic action needs to be taken by the SAPS to radically reduce the high rate of crime in the Eastern Cape. This requires that the vehicle management system is thoroughly overhauled and there are more visible police patrols and rapid response units available. Crime intelligence and detective work must ensure that their culprits are brought before the courts. Police management needs to ensure that the SAPS is properly resourced, properly trained, properly staffed and properly equipped. Leadership is the difference maker and it is quite clear that there needs to be a shake-up in the Eastern Cape to get better results.

Under a DA government, we will hold the Provincial Commissioner, as well as the Station Commissioners accountable to performance contracts. We will continuously strive to improve safety and security in the province. The DA’s vision for the Eastern Cape is one of a safe and secure province where our women, children and the elderly feel safe in their homes and on the streets.

Let me once more congratulate the department on getting a clean audit. You are a fine example to the other departments in the province.