Speech notes: integrated community driven safety and its role in socio-economic development

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

Power to the People – an integrated approach to community safety

The global pandemic that we are currently undergoing has issued in a new approach to the delivery of services, not only in South Africa but also throughout the world.

It is no longer government as usual but rather the COVID-19 ushering in, what one would call “the whole of society approach”. It requires government, businesses, communities, and individuals to work hand in hand to ensure our society operates smoothly. This can be described as a multi-sectoral or partnership approach to government. It means putting more power in the hands of the people.

This approach is particularly relevant when it comes to integrated community-driven safety and its impact on socio-economic development. High crime rates frighten investors away. Crime makes the cost of running a business very burdensome in terms of security and theft. No go areas occur in parts of our province and tourists don’t visit those places. Crime also impacts on absenteeism and productivity as workers are victims to crime. There is an impact on workers mental health by having to travel through and live in crime-ridden areas, and the psychological fear that goes with this.

The latest quarterly crime statistics released highlights this point.

Six of our stations are in the top thirty in the country for murder- Mthatha had 29 murders in the last quarter and Bethelsdorp 28. Robbery at residential premises increased by 13,2%.Cash in transit up 20%.Truck hijacking 67%.Burglary at businesses up 7,5%. Over 90 days this amounts to 21,7 businesses per day.

In the Eastern Cape, COVID-19 has exposed an already broken state. The state cannot deal with the numerous issues that it has been charged with. It cannot fight crime alone and needs an integrated approach.

We say give more power to the people!

At a community level, many initiatives are rising throughout the province. Noting the collapse of local government; residents are taking the delivery of services into their own hands. There are many examples of where communities are involved in fixing roads, potholes, cutting the grass, picking up litter, painting lines, trimming trees, and painting buildings; this includes neighbourhood watches, farm patrols and street committees.

The DA says power to the people. We need to empower communities to take care of their needs and not rely totally on a broken state.

It is perhaps in the area of safety and security that government can enter into one of the most productive partnerships to fight crime in this province, mainly through the use of technology where the government currently doesn’t have the skills or capital to utilize this equipment.

An example of this technology is a network of cameras throughout the province that are capacitated with license plate recognition, and time over distance as well. With this technology one would be able to trace stolen vehicles and apprehend criminals on the run. Similarly, drone technology partnerships could be entered into to patrol certain areas.

Shot Spotter technology was also used in Helenvale in Nelson Mandela Bay to apprehend criminals. What this technology does is triangulate within a few meters where a gunshot was fired within the community, and a patrol vehicle is then immediately dispatched to that area. To implement this technology again, a partnership with the private sector will have to be considered.

Why then has this partnership approach to fighting crime become critical?

The devastating economic fallout of the Coronavirus pandemic and the consequences of the subsequently enforced lockdown continues to be reflected in the latest unemployment figures contained in the Quarterly Labour Force Survey statistics that were recently released.

The Eastern Cape remains the jobs slaughterhouse of the country. It is the epicentre of the virus, the epicentre of corruption and now continues to be the epicentre of unemployment in South Africa.

The provincial unemployment figures are the worst in the country, shooting up from 36.9% in the 2nd quarter, to 45,8% in the 3rd quarter, with the expanded unemployment figure at 51,2%, which is slightly down from the 52,8% last quarter.

Year on year the province has lost over 190,000 jobs.

This job loss is in sharp contrast to the neighbouring DA-run Western Cape, which has the lowest rates in the country, with an unemployment rate of just 21,6% and the expanded unemployment rate of 29,1%.
Even more devastating is how unemployment is impacting the rural areas of our province, with the unemployment rate a staggering 51,3% for the 3rd quarter, and the expanded unemployment rate at a shocking 58,2%.

If we are to attract investment and grow our economy, we need to build a capable state in this province. A capable state is one which creates the right environment for the private sector to operate, create jobs and ensures that communities are safe.

This means that the provision of reliable electricity, water supplies, as well as a functioning transport infrastructure network, and the cutting of red tape along with a safe environment is vital.

Simply put, we need to look for cheaper ways to carry out the functions of government. The current model, with a massive cost of COE, merely is unsustainable. Compensation of employees amounts to 65,7% of the entire provincial budget. The average wage in the public sector is 40% higher than in the private sector. A higher wage bill is going to eat up more and more resources that should be there for the delivery of services and socio-economic development.

Tax revenues are shrinking along with our economy. The provincial economy is scheduled to shrink by 5,5% this year.

The government needs to adopt a new fresh and innovative approach for people to live a life of value. That approach is called partnership governance.

The biggest obstacle to the success of this would be corruption. Corruption is occurring because of the breakdown of values in our society. Self-enrichment, greed and entitlement symbolize the moral rot that is taking place. The recent COVID-19 looting has shocked many South Africans as it steals resources that should be there for the benefit of all people. Unless one deals decisively with corruption, it will create instability that can erupt into violent protests that can destroy the very foundation of our society.

A partnership approach to governance will assist in turning the tide of poor service delivery in the Eastern Cape and ensure that we build a capable state. In the area of community safety, this means that government, businesses, communities, and security companies are working together in a dynamic partnership to eradicate crime and create the right environment to grow our economy.