Debate on Community Safety and Liaison Speech by Hon. M.B Gwala, MPL

KwaZulu-Natal Legislature, Pietermaritzburg
June 2020

Hon Chairperson, Hon MEC and Hon. Members.

The IFP supports the R249 million Budget allocation for the Department of Community Safety & Liaison for 2020/21 financial year.

Before I continue with the debate, I wish to say that it is unfortunate that the MEC decided to mention only the late Philip Mkhwanazi of the ANC, with the exclusion of the late Thengezakhe Timothy Maphanga of the IFP, who was gunned down three weeks before Mkhwanazi, in the same area of Mtubatuba.

COVID-19 LOCKDOWN LAW-ENFORCEMENT

But first and foremost, as the IFP we wish to commend the role played by the police and army in enforcing lockdown regulations during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they must continue to enforce the lockdown regulations.

In the same breath we want to raise our serious concern about police brutality when enforcing lockdown regulations. This is evident in the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) report, which has revealed that the number of assault cases against SAPS (South African Police Force) members in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) has increased by a staggering 95% in May, when compared to the same period last year. The report – tabled during a virtual meeting of the KZN Community Safety Portfolio Committee held few days ago – showed that during in May 2020, KZN saw an increase from 41 in 2019, and 80 in 2020. There was also a 41.6% increase in the number of assault cases opened against law enforcement officers when comparing April 2019 and April 2020, (actual numbers are 28 in 2019, and 48 in 2020). The IFP challenges the MEC for Community Safety & Liaison to provide a detailed plan to combat police brutality.

BUDGET ALLOCATION

During 2019 SOPA the Premier of KZN promised the citizens of KwaZulu-Natal that he would deal with the issues of lawlessness, crime, killings, property vandalism, social ills, the proliferation of drugs and guns, women and children abuse and sexual crimes. However, the latest crime statistics paint a grim picture, with most crimes showing an upward trajectory. All the crimes that scare us the most have spiked in KwaZulu-Natal. Murder increased by 0.3% while robbery with aggravated circumstances saw an increase of 2.7% in 2019. Sexual offences jumped by 6.3% while rape increased by a devastating 5.9%.

These numbers show a clear picture – that our police officers are not adequately trained to deal with the type of criminals that are out there terrorizing our communities. As the IFP, we think it is important as a Province to take a deep breath, and collect ourselves so as to refocus on what is best for the crisis-ridden KwaZulu-Natal Province.

I recall one day, a few years back, during the opening of the Legislature by His Majesty the King. A stranger just stood up and went to the podium where the King was speaking to hand deliver a message, without being searched. If that person meant to harm His Majesty, he would have done so due to lack of security.

Consequently, as the IFP, we feel that the budget of R249.1 million is not adequate to meet the demands that this Department faces.

AG FINDINGS

Nonetheless, we would like to commend the Department for ensuring that it fully spends the budget allocated to it in the previous financial year. Although it received an unqualified audit with findings from the AG, we hope that it can still do more to improve its financial status. We urge the Hon MEC to address the irregular expenditure and wasteful expenditure. The Department incurred irregular expenditure of R19.55 million during 2018/19, compared to R15.68 million during the 2017/18 financial year. We urge that action must be taken against anyone who contributes to irregular, wasteful and fruitless expenditure and those who flout SCM processes.

We have also noted that for the 2020/2021 financial year, the Department, through its monitoring and evaluation, will continue to evaluate areas such as detectives’ units, due to a lack of feedback, and poor investigation by the detectives. This raised many questions about the competency of those detectives, on whether are they qualified to perform their duties? If they are incompetent, why they were appointed in the first place? Why are they still working for the SAPS if they have proven that they are failing to do their jobs diligently? We want the Hon MEC to tell us from which police stations these detectives work. Our SAPS need competent people, who are willing to protect our communities.

POLICE CORRUPTION

As the IFP we welcomed the appointment of the new KZN Police Commissioner, Lt General Khombinkosi Jula. We commended his willingness and capabilities to be on the forefront of ensuring that crime is eradicated in the Province.

Lt General Jula should be aware that we as the IFP are gravely concerned with corruption amongst law enforcement officials in this Province. We have been calling for an urgent overhaul within law enforcement. Even though we are aware that not ALL law enforcement officials are bad. It is imperative that the MEC and General Jula urgently work out a plan to have the corrupt ones rooted out once and for all. We urge him to restore the rule of law and introduce change.

SERVICE-DELIVERY PROTESTS

KwaZulu-Natal has continuously been adversely affected by service-delivery protests, which in most cases turn out to be violent and result in much damage to property and the loss of life. The nature of public protests in this Province, and the country as a whole, necessitates the deployment of police officers who are well-skilled in crowd management tactics.

FARM ATTACKS

We are concerned about farms attacks. We call on the MEC to invest more resources into deterring this crime. We have lost many farmers to crime and this threatens the food security of this Province. Rural safety must be prioritised, as farmers and farmworkers live in constant fear because the government does not deem rural safety a priority.

POLICE PROMOTION

The IFP believes that the time has come to review the qualifications of those who set standards for recruiting, appointing and promoting police managers and officials.

Promotions and appointments driven by an obsession to meet affirmative action targets are perpetuating negligence, poor service delivery, and are eating away at the credibility of the police in general, as well as undermining the morale of officers who are committed to excellence, such as those whose commitment and diligence have resulted in the imposition of life sentences on some criminals. We salute them for that.

Whilst there are many excellent police officers in the SAPS, there are also too many officers that should not be in the service. That is why the IFP believes there should be a review of the standards for recruiting, appointing, and promoting police managers and officials.

SOLUTIONS

The IFP is proposing the following as practical measures to eliminate or drastically reduce criminal activities in our cities, towns and communities. Government must eradicate crime in our society, like it does when disasters strike in SADC countries where interventions are urgently made. We are not shocked when the ANC-led government fails to address crime because it has failed to assist in retrieving the bodies of three workers, Pretty Nkambule, Yvonne Mnisi and Solomon Nyirenda, who are still trapped underground in a container in Lilly Mine.

1. Equip the police

In the case of the police, who are charged with the herculean task of ensuring internal security, the provision of working equipment is very essential. The police need robust vehicles, modern and sophisticated communications facilities, modern weapons, and adequate fuel to move about and do their job.

2. Protect all porous borders

There must be increased security on our borders. We must do everything possible to protect the territorial integrity of our great nation. The uncontrolled open borders seem to be adding more problems, as more dangerous items such as explosives and ammunition are smuggled inside our Province by illegal immigrants on a daily basis.

3. Tighten regulations on inflows and movements of arms

More needs to be done to prevent gun-trafficking and the proliferation of illegal guns. The security and intelligence agencies ought to wake up.

4. Increase police visibility

There must be more police visibility through 24-hour mobile stations. Let us see and feel the presence of police officers in all our nooks and crannies. To fight crime, the MEC needs to aim to meet the United Nations recommended police ratio of 1:220. As it stands, we know that 90% of KZN Police Stations do not meet this ratio, as they are critically under-staffed and under-resourced.

5. Encourage electronic banking

We are in the ICT era and digitisation has simplified life. In the banking sector, efforts have been made to make it cashless and limit human interference. Why people still want to go physically to banks to withdraw huge sums of money and be targets of criminals, I simply don’t understand.

6. Protection for whistle-blowers

The police have often said that to be able to fight crime successfully, information is key, but there have been several instances that the same police have failed to protect persons who volunteer information to them. Lives of whistle-blowers must be protected.

7. Speedy trial of criminal cases

One of the many incentives for crime perpetration is that it often takes too long for offenders to be punished and for victims to get justice. Armed robbery and murder trials have taken up to a year or more to be concluded. The saying is that justice delayed is justice denied. Even though we are often assured that the wheels of justice turn slowly, it is imperative that speedy trials are adopted, especially in the cases of armed and sexual offenses-related crimes. The punitive judgement, delivered on time, will surely serve as a deterrent to would-be criminals.

8. Incentivise police officers

It is about time we find a way to properly incentivise police officers to enable them to give of their best, especially in the fight against crime. When a police officer is subjected to poor conditions, he becomes vulnerable to inducement, bribery and even compelled to partake in or abet criminal activities.

9. Rotation of police officers

The allegations that were levelled against the police officers by Jozini residents that some police officers are colluding with criminals on cross-border crime and theft of motor vehicles calls for the rotation of police officers. “Unknown” police officers must be sent to the border, as they are not known by the criminals. It must be stipulated for how long those police officers will stay.

CONCLUSION

Across KwaZulu-Natal crime is rising. We need to make clear the difference between right and wrong. We need an end to the excuses for poor behaviour and crime.

We need a police force which intervenes, confronts and challenges every kind of crime and disorder – from graffiti and litter, to burglary and robbery. In short, we need zero-tolerance policing.

Lastly, we also want to pay tribute to those members of the SAPS who died in the line of duty. We want to extend our condolences to their loved ones and families. We honour their contribution in the fight against crime and to keep our communities safe.

I thank you.