Speech Notes: Vote 15 – Safety and Liaison Annual & Half Year Financial Oversight Reports

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

If we are to build a capable state in the Eastern Cape that attracts investors and where jobs are created, we simply have to cut the crime rate and ensure that our criminal justice system becomes more efficient.

Sadly, given the fact that the government has bungled the vaccine acquisition, police resources are continuously going to be tied up in chasing surfers off the beach rather than catching criminals when the 3rd wave hits us.

Why is it that SAPS can deal with the surfers on the beach but they cannot deal with the waves of drinking in public that is taking place in BCM? MEC are you aware of this problem and what are you going to do about? It simply makes a mockery of law and order!

To ensure greater efficiencies, we need to cut the fat and cadre deployment when it comes to any appointments.

As we are well aware, this department has had its budget cut by R3, 4 million, which impacts on critical posts. This means that the department needs to have a real look into restructuring to become more effective in bolstering the criminal justice system.

One of the ways of doing this is through the implementation of the court watching brief. I welcome the fact that the department has begun to pilot this programme; however, it is disappointing that only three officials have been trained. This raises a huge question mark regarding the department’s capacity to roll out this programme across the province.

This programme was initially introduced in the Western Cape. Members of the watching brief unit attend courts to observe the procedures to detect the police’s inefficiencies and other problems related to the criminal justice system.

When inefficiencies are detected, a comprehensive report is compiled, this report is then inter alia referred to the Provincial Commissioner of SAPS for his attention and action.

Honourable members, let us note that the report is always forwarded to the community safety portfolio committee. The Provincial Commissioner will then respond to the department, or he may be called before the portfolio committee and be held to account for the inefficiencies.

The Court Watching Brief programme is a vital tool which the Provincial Legislature via the Department of Community Safety, and the portfolio committee on safety and security can utilize to hold SAPS to account for inefficiencies that might occur with regard to cases being struck off the roll because dockets, for example, have not been fully prepared.

The Court Watching Brief programme can play an important role in ensuring that victims of heinous crimes such as gender-based violence, brutal farm murders as well as other violent crime’s perpetrators can be brought to book and they do not escape justice through inefficiencies in the system.

The Democratic Alliance looks forward to the continued roll-out of this plan. We would like to see that the reports sent to the Provincial Commissioner are also sent to the portfolio committee on safety and security so that we can exercise a more effective oversight role.

I would like the MEC to respond to this in her reply.

In short, the Court Watching Briefs will help improve prosecutions, enabling one to monitor the progress in cases, prevent cases from being dropped and ensure that justice is served.

Another way of improving efficiencies is through Community Safety Forums (CSF) at a municipal level. The functions of CSF’s include:
To coordinate, promote cooperation and integrate planning/budgeting between government departments on matters relating to community safety and security.

Facilitate the implementation of partnerships between government and communities on community safety matters.

Ensure an alignment of local priorities, and crime prevention (safety and security) plans with those in the provincial and national spheres.

I am concerned that the website of the department is not kept up to date. This is an issue I’ve raised for many many years and my patience is exhausted. In the digital era in which we are living, this cannot be tolerated, and needs to be fixed as a matter of urgency, for example:

  • Name is outdated – remains Department of Safety and Liaison
  • The latest news on the home page reflects events that took place in 2018, although it was ‘updated’ on the 15th Jan 2019
  • Upcoming Events Tab – Last events listed was in August 2020 and no events listed for 2021
  • Latest circular posted was in 2016
  • No annual reports can be found on the website
  • Latest policy speech published is dated 2019/20, but before that, the only other one posted is dated 2016
  • No email address provided for Nelson Mandela Bay Metro District Office

MEC, what are you going to do about this? Who is accountable? When will it be fixed?

The Democratic Alliance is also concerned about the increasingly violent crimes in rural communities. Again, the Court Watching Brief can assist in ensuring that culprits are brought to book. All stops need to be pulled out to apprehend criminals running rampant in our rural areas.

We believe that the following steps can be taken to improve rural safety:

The introduction of specialized units dedicated to protecting rural communities

Increase the research and statistical information on these crimes, and to make this information available on an electronic dashboard

Increase the investigative capacity of SAPS – this means the utilization of every available technology such as drones when tracking perpetrators

The reclassification of farm attacks as priority crimes which will increase resources being made available to them

There should also be tax relief measures for those in rural areas such as farmers that have to pay for private security companies as well as subsidies for farm patrollers, watchers and companies providing security in rural communities

We also need to increase the crime intelligence capacity for rural areas

Border security needs to be improved

The key cross-border crimes that need to be combatted are stock theft, theft of motor vehicles, drug trafficking and the moving of undocumented persons.

We also need to ensure that our police stations are secure. Over the last few years, several stations have been attacked.

In answer to a question that I asked, 78 stations have controlled access in this province when it comes to security, but a shocking 80 police stations don’t have controlled access.

The department needs to ensure that SAPS speeds up the process of ensuring that access control is implemented at these police stations. We need to ensure that members of SAPS who work in these stations are safe and secure.

In conclusion, Honourable Speaker, what we need is a new partnership approach to fighting crime. This is a governance model that involves the Department of Community Safety, SAPS, municipalities, businesses, security companies, community police forums and communities in general.

This department has a crucial role to play in mobilizing all sectors of society in a collective effort to bring down crime, but it still needs to get its head firmly in the digital era and embrace new technology. This is what a capable state is all about.