Speech Notes: Safety and Liaison Portfolio Committee Report and Budget 2020/2021

Issued by Bobby Stevenson, MPL
Shadow MEC for Safety and Security

The Democratic Alliance welcomes the change in name of the department to the Department of Community Safety. This gives greater clarity as to what the role of the department is and will certainly resonate a lot better with the public and is aligned with other provinces such as the Western Cape. Any name change costs can be phased in over time.

With reference to the budget, what is of great concern is that only 26% of the budget or R29 million of the R116 million has been allocated to goods and services.

This budget was already inadequate without the R7, 9 million cut that has been effected by provincial treasury.

This department is not like ordinary government departments, its key work involves the monitoring and oversight of SAPS and to do that one needs a goods and services budget for travel and accommodation, running campaigns and research.

The Democratic Alliance also welcomes the long last appointment of a permanent HOD. This has been a long time coming where one has been without a HOD for well over 3 years. This delay highlights how the province has failed to prioritize the fight against crime.

We trust that with a permanent head of the department there will be new vision particularly when it comes to combatting crime and marshalling the resources of society as a whole.

There are three key areas where I believe the department needs to inject new energy and life into combatting crime in the Eastern Cape.

The first area is that of the utilization of technology by municipalities and SAPS itself in order to fight crime. More and more across the world various agencies are using technology to improve safety and security.

CCTV cameras with license plate recognition technology can play a huge role in reducing crime in neighbourhoods, townships and rural areas. These cameras have the ability to pick up stolen vehicles or vehicles on a wanted list. Should vehicles be involved in any sort of crime one can track them through the utilization of these cameras.

When I inspected the Tsitsikamma border post, the Western Cape traffic officials were standing with hand held devices while the Eastern Cape traffic officials were standing with clipboards and pens.

There needs to be a commitment from the department to really drive this issue and become a thought leader in this regard.

Along with cameras, there are other technologies that can be used such as shotspotter. This was introduced by the then DA led coalition government in Nelson Mandela Bay and played a major role in the reduction of crime in the Northern Areas. This technology immediately detects gun fire, it triangulates the spot from where the gun was fired and sends this information off to law enforcement agencies. Sadly the contracts around this lapsed and this technology is no longer in operation in the Northern Areas of Port Elizabeth.

In the report the committee recommends as a matter of urgency that it finalizes it programme of action with regard to the implementation of the Anti-Gang Strategy in the Northern Areas of Port Elizabeth.

For many years now, since about 2015, the then Premier pointed to the then HOD to coordinate the Anti-Gang Task Team of the Northern Areas of Port Elizabeth. It really needs to now have a firm programme of action and start delivering results that can end the scourge of gangstersim in that community but also in other areas of our province where it is spreading to such as the Humansdorp areas.

People are dying daily while the department is still in planning mode. This is not acceptable MEC! The people of the Northern Areas and other gang ridden communities’ lives are becoming valueless, instead of living a life of value.

Noting the shortage of manpower by SAPS; drone technology can play a major role in apprehending criminals and ensuring safety and security particularly in our vast rural areas. Making use of drones in policing rural areas can be a massive boost for both proactive and reactive policing. Proactively drones not only have the ability to achieve similar conventional visible policing objectives, but it can also outperform conventional policing.

Crime hotspots can be prioritized and monitored automatically to ensure that a possible incidence of crime can be addressed and suspects pursued.

By equipping the drones with thermal energy, night vision or infrared technology it is possible for suspects to be identified and pursued in any condition.

Rural policing drone units will make it impossible for criminals to hide anywhere in the vast expanses of our country side.

This will play an important role in combatting attacks on farms and on farm workers. Farm murders should be classified as hate crimes, and jobs and food security in rural areas needs to be protected.

The department needs to utilize its watching brief programme to ensure that those who commit crimes against farmers and farm workers are prosecuted by monitoring these investigations so as to ensure that they are brought to head.

Another area that the department needs to engage more actively in, is mobilizing people to join the police reservists. SAPS has a shortage of manpower in the Eastern Cape of 2067 positions. The reservists have been allowed to decline for a number of years from 2070 to 677 in the last financial year. We need boots on the ground if we are going to combat crime.

A third area where I believe we need fresh energy is the coordinating role that this department can play between municipalities, the community, business and security firms. We need new partnerships to ensure the safety of the people in this province. SAPS alone cannot hold the line!

The department needs to energize all aspects of society to work in a coordinated fashion. I am calling on the department to take on a more activist role in this regard.

The rising unemployment which breeds inequality and poverty is going to drive an increase in violence and property crimes, as well as gender based violence.

The defiance of the taxi industry has effectively ended the lockdown and contributes to a culture of lawlessness in our society.

The department needs to pioneer a new approach by building new partnerships and urgently promoting technology, so that people in the province can live a life of value.