Debate On Vote 9: Community Safety And Liaison

The Inkatha Freedom Party acknowledges the Budget of R204. 486million allocated to the Department of Community Safety and Liaison but the IFP is not convinced that this department is fulfilling its core mandate of eradicating crime and ensuring that our people live in communities that are crime-free. For any community to make progress, be it economically or socially, safety and stability are key factors that give confidence and encourages growth.

I want to raise my concerns about the recent killings of police officers. This is something that should not be accepted and as the IFP we call for the full and urgent investigation into the reasons behind the random killing of law enforcement officers. The IFP send its condolences to the families and colleagues of the slain officers.

It is an increasingly intolerable fact of life in this province and country that hardly a day passes without us hearing of yet another murder, rape, abduction, hijacking or burglary. We must strive to take away from potential criminals the opportunity to commit the crimes. It is labour-intensive and resource-expensive to do this, but should the Department not step up, the consequences will be too drastic. The Department needs to be one step ahead of criminals in their crime fighting techniques. In this regard crime intelligence and community involvement is of utmost importance. A solid visible policing presence in all places identified as crime hotspots will serve as a deterrent to would be criminals. Should there be no creative crime prevention initiatives, the budget speech by the Hon.MEC will be an old song with a new tune.

In some ways, criminals are already one step ahead of the authorities. Simply put, the Department has failed to address the root causes of crime in our province. People without dignified living standards tend to be more vulnerable to crime. Poor people may engage in theft in order to make a living but poverty can never be an excuse to commit crime.

I want to state it clear that this Department is failing to deal with “trigger happy criminals” at Glebelands Hostel in Umlazi. Some parts of Umlazi Township have now become famous with regard to criminal activities which prove that a new approach is needed to address this situation effectively. People are dying on a regular basis while we have a Department of Community Safety that is supposed to ensure their safety. The police need to do more to arrest the criminals who are killing people in the hostels around Durban and they need to conduct a thorough search for illegal guns that are being used to perpetrate crime.

If the MEC and the police fail to work effectively in eradicating illegal guns in our communities, we will continue to lose many lives. The tangible evidence of this is the recent killings of Richmond Municipal Manager, Deputy Mayor and others in that area. There is an old saying which when paraphrased says that, not only does the action of Governments not deter men from crime; on the contrary, it increases crime by always disturbing and lowering the moral standard of society. KZN is in the grip of an unprecedented wave of gun violence.

We are deeply concerned about the allegations that there is a syndicate selling temporary gun licences to Chinese residents. Having people possessing firearms without going through legal processes will result in an increase of illegal firearms in communities. This is unacceptable and if left unchecked can lead to a very dangerous situation. We have always been calling for a reduction in the number of illegal firearms that are out there but this new development will only serve to take us backwards.

We believe there is a clear need to strengthen the law around guns, especially illegal firearms.

The IFP welcomes the Commission that has been established to investigate political killings in KZN. Political killings have been a concern for the IFP for a long time. We hope that the R15million that has been set aside by the Office of the Premier for this probe will not be wasted funds and that it will yield positive results that will see the killings come to an end.

With killings taking place at random, I often wonder if there are paid killers on the loose in KwaZulu-Natal and whether these killers have made killing their full time occupation.

When addressing the increase in crime all the MEC could offer us is that the Department “would do more”. There is very little tangible, specific and clear direction on the immediate implementation of strategies that would curb criminal activity. This Department needs to become the change it wants to see in our society. Clearly, the millions spent on hosting Summits and talk-shops have proven to be grossly inadequate in fighting the growing scourge of crime.

As the IFP we are very concerned that there has been no progress on the investigations of the killings of Amakhosi especially that of Inkosi Linda Mathonsi. We would like the MEC to tell this House what progress if any has been made in this regard.

We will keep on asking serious questions in this House and outside of it to ensure that the Department of Community Safety and Liaison and the provincial government in general remain accountable to the members of the public who depend on government for their safety and security.

As the IFP we are concerned about the mental and emotional well-being of police personnel because of the largely violent environment in which they work. The Department must allocate more funding to employ additional Psychologists to service the large number of police personnel who need trauma counselling services. Police personnel who are traumatised as a result of what they experience in the line of duty need to be provided with adequate care.

The budget needs to provide more funding for the improvement of conditions at most police stations especially when it comes to resources for victims of rape, women and child abuse. Such victims need to feel comfortable and safe in an environment where they can talk freely of their ordeal.

The Department must deal with corrupt police personnel in order to instil public confidence in the Department. The few corrupt officers are tarnishing the image of the entire police force. Corrupt police must be weeded out of the service and the quicker that disciplinary measures are implemented the better.

I believe that the department should lead a campaign to recruit police reservists in this province and ensure that they have all done their firearm competency training. There are many people who would like to volunteer and assist in the fight against crime and training police reservists will assist in this cause.

Also Community Policing Forums (CPFs) have a special task to co-ordinate the relationship between their communities and the police. There are two major drivers behind the current crime rate in the province – these are unemployment and the sense of lawlessness that has infiltrated communities ever since the ANC has been in government.

When a nation is facing economic hardships, it is to be expected that people at the more vulnerable end of society that lack any form of social safety net will be tempted to resort to petty crime to get by. This can quickly establish itself into a pattern of behaviour that becomes a way of life, outlasting the harsh times and becoming a fixed feature of society. It can also become a full-blown disease that allows petty thieves to graduate into hardened criminals, developing themselves into organised networks that finance some politicians and even determine the outcomes of electoral contests.

Madame Speaker, the ugliness of xenophobia once again threatened to raise its ugly head in our province. We all need to ask ourselves: What am I doing to promote greater tolerance and inclusivity? We, as public representatives must assist the police by influencing the communities that we come from to be accepting of all those who live among us.

Those who have sworn to uphold the law of this country must not seek to abrogate the punishment of crime by seeking leniency for persons involved in criminal activity. I call on all crime fighters to be dedicated to their duty and to ensure that crime does not become a way of life for our people. Anyone who commits a crime must face the full brunt of the law.

As leaders in this province and our country, we must be seen and known to denounce crime and not just talk about it. We must stop accepting gifts from persons known to be involved in crime. We must publicly be seen to denounce crime and criminals, and if anyone in leadership has friends involved in crime, drug trafficking or any other crime even if it is white collar crime, they must distance themselves from such persons.

Madame Speaker, the IFP also calls upon the police to redouble their efforts to:

(1) Intensify community policing strategies to enlist the support of the civil society in the fight against crime.
(2) Deal with crime detection and prosecution professionally, relentlessly and using the extent of the law to root out criminal behaviour.

Let me further warn that the easiest way for evil to succeed, is for good people to remain silent and do nothing. Let us resolve to do the right thing and intensify the fight against crime. We owe it to our province to call wrong- wrong and right-right. It is the only way that we can preserve our province and pass it on to posterity as a stable and prosperous province for all to enjoy!

Another issue that needs to be tackled urgently is that of drugs that is destroying many lives. The current strategies have not produced the results desired.  The consumption of drugs has a negative impact on our province as it destroys the social fabric of communities. We call for integrated, comprehensive and coordinated inter-governmental action to address all aspects of the supply and availability of drugs in our communities. The focus of law enforcement efforts should be on the real criminals, the drug lords involved in the supply of narcotic substances. At this point I must ask what has happened to the Anti-Drug Task Team that was established at a grand function held at the Pietermaritzburg City Hall a few years ago? As I recall the MEC for Social Development was appointed the chairperson of that Task Team.

I would also like to touch on the serious issue of human trafficking. I urge all those in government positions to combat this scourge with firmness. All efforts must be made to eradicate this shameful and intolerable crime. Most of those trafficked are vulnerable women and children deceived into a life of suffering. They are exploited for sex and forced to work in conditions akin to slavery. They may be young women who have been enslaved as prostitutes or abused as unpaid domestic workers.

Enforcement, cross-border co-operation and information-sharing can all be effective, but ending human trafficking also means tackling the root causes. Extreme poverty, entrenched inequality and a lack of education and opportunity create the vulnerabilities that traffickers exploit. I call on competent authorities to set up a unified strategy to eradicate all forms of human trafficking in the province.

A more recent scourge that has reared its ugly head is that of the killing of people for their body parts. This evil practice has placed albinos at very risk. I want to make a very impassionate plea here today to the MEC and his Department to do everything possible to stamp out this evil practice and ensure the protection of albinos. Funding must be made available for awareness and education around this issue.

Madame Speaker, although rhino poaching falls under the Environmental Affairs Portfolio, I would not hesitate to talk about this in today’s debate. Rhino poaching has reached a crisis point with animals being brutally slaughtered in huge numbers to supply horn for the illicit medicine trade. It’s vital that KwaZulu-Natal takes urgent action to eradicate consumer demand for rhino horn which has no scientifically established medicinal benefit whatsoever.

The Inkatha Freedom Party calls for stringent legislation and tougher criminal sanction for those found guilty of poaching and the illicit trade in rhino horn. More feet on the ground in our wildlife parks and greater social awareness campaigns in our schools and communities will go a long way in this fight. We salute all those champions of South African Wildlife, our unsung heroes, the rangers, the animal rights activists and NGOs who tirelessly continue the fight to eradicate the scourge of rhino poaching from our soil.

Madame Speaker, the Department must allocate more funds to set up more satellite police stations and increase the number of police personnel in communities to counter criminal activity more effectively. To support this statement residents of KwaVishavisha in uMkhunya in Ward 05 in Ubuhlebezwe Local Municipality under Harry Gwala District have been crying out for a satellite police station. In case of emergency they have to wait for police officers from Highflats to attend to crime. It is a well-known fact that there are many communities in this province which are facing a similar situation. Furthermore, I would like to get an answer from the MEC on what progress has been made in building the Ingwavuma Police Station. Currently police officers are a laughing stock in the community as they are working in dilapidated buildings.

Madame Speaker, we welcome the announcement by the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government that it has set aside an amount of R48 million to fight cross border crime. But we urge the MEC of Community Safety and the Premier to consider the importance of holding a Cross-border crime summit similar to that one took place on 12 August 2012, held at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre, which was attended by ministers from neighbouring countries, law enforcement agencies, leaders of society and non-governmental organisations, convened to canvass views about how to prevent cross-border crime. It must further be investigated whether any police officers and local communities are colluding with criminals in pursuing these criminal activities. We suggest that there should be a rotation of police officers in the boarder and not to use same police officers who might have created friendships with criminals.

I also like to touch on a sensitive issue concerning the obese police officers.

People don’t think an obese officer can be as productive as a trim and fit officer. Although there are no statistics available to show how many police force members are overweight it is easy to spot uniformed members who are portly. We are aware that the argument would be that there are programmes in place to ensure members of the force are fit but we question just how effective this programme has been.