Mpumalanga MEC for Community Safety & Liaison, Mr V. Shongwe;
Northern Cape MEC for Community Safety & Liaison, Mr P. Mabilu;
Provincial Police Commissioner, Lieutenant General T. Ntobela;
SAPS senior management and representatives present;
Representatives from other government departments present;
Representatives from business, CPFs, NGOs and academic fraternities;
Members of the media;
Ladies and gentleman;
We welcome an opportunity to address this important summit, under the theme: “I can, you can, and we can build a safe and secure society for all.”
The theme itself, poses various fundamental challenges to all of us on how we deal and defeat the scourge of crime, as a province of Mpumalanga and as a nation in general. Perhaps from an onset we need to emphasise that crime is a scourge that respects nobody; it negatively affects people across gender, race and religion. As such it is a societal challenge that requires societal response.
As diverse in terms of our socio-economic standings, we all have different roles to contribute in this warfare. t is after all, a protracted war which has been declared on society by heartless criminals. As we defeated the scourge of apartheid, we remain confident that this war shall be won because government and the people of our land have the will, the commitment and the strength.
We applaud MEC Shongwe for convening this gathering of ideas against crime; further caution against summit delegates meeting, deliberating and heading back to their respective places. A time for talk shops must be thing of the past – what we require is more action and less talk.
Police are the shields of the nation. heirs is more than just a job; it is a commitment to serve their country with distinction. Yet, we have some scoundrels in our midst, criminals who are intent to kill these shields of the nation. Today we once again want to say: they shall fail.
We want to reiterate and express our appreciation as government to all the stakeholders who continue to support our police officers and those law-abiding South Africans who took a stance against the killing of law enforcement agencies.
During the convening of our national summit against police killings, we said, quote: “the killing of members of the law enforcement agencies, especially the police is a direct threat to our hard-won Constitutional democracy; a threat that should not be taken lightly by society.” We still hold that view even today.
Now any person who threatens our democracy has declared him or herself an enemy of the State; to that effect you are an enemy of law-abiding citizens. When we train our officers, we do so cognizant that theirs is to protect society, not to be killed by heartless criminals. That is why one of the summit outcomes was around ensuring that we sharpen our training and that was an aspect we immediately tasked the police management to review.
The task that confronts us is to act urgently to galvanise the South African Police Service (SAPS) into a well-oiled machinery. However, without high levels of discipline, command and control this would not be possible. Training and discipline of police officers is now underpinned by a deeper commitment to the Constitution and a culture of service to the people.
There must be a good appreciation of the distinction between the need to use maximum force against violent criminals and, minimum force in dealing with fellow citizens. We should not have any blurring lines when it comes to command and control. We are intent on creating an understanding that first and foremost it must serve the people under the Constitution and in a democratic setting generally.
More focused attention is now given to specialised training, firearm handling as well as ensuring that police officers who respond to crime scenes are fully equipped with bullet proof vests. Unless we address and pay attention to these kinds of training, we shall not achieve the kind of results we aim to.
As many of you may be aware, as a ministry we have now begun to review the 1998 White Paper on Safety and Security. The fundamental goal is not to produce a guiding policy which will be hailed as amazing but need to produce and implement a policy that will instill confidence to crime victims. We need a policy that inspires society and empowers law enforcement agencies to effectively fight crime. At the same time we require a policy that will send a message to criminals that their honeymoon is over.
For this reason, we have outlined our expectations as we embark on this legislative review process. We have said that the process of reconstruction of society requires the establishment of security services that are reflective of the national demographics and gender character of the country. The police must be non-partisan, professional, uphold the Constitution and show respect for human rights.
The police must recognise that we are a developmental state, as such embrace effective service delivery within the Service. We require police officers that demonstrate through their deeds, firm commitment to ensure government priorities are realised.
One of the challenges which we believe the summit has addressed is the whole aspect of disjointed approaches around crime prevention. At times whilst we all share similar objectives in terms of fighting crime, yet our efforts are not coordinated in a most efficient manner. We cannot be at opposing ends when we are suppose to be one in approach.
In building synergy, government reviewed the cluster approach so that it becomes more effective, not just on paper but through practical solutions. The establishment of the inter-governmental cluster approach has fostered an integrated approach to governance that is aimed at improving government planning, decision-making and service delivery.
Our Justice Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster consists of various stakeholder departments and agencies in government responsible for safety and security issues. It enables proper lines of communication, resource deployment, stakeholder synergy and coordination.
This approach also oversees the diverse relationships between various departments, each relationship with its own value chain and outcomes as an integrated function of government. This contributes positively as part of the holistic governance system for safety and security.
Civilian oversight of the police has been strengthened through the introduction of the Civilian Secretariat for Police and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate Acts of 2011. These pieces of legislation remove the Civilian Secretariat and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (previously known as the ICD), and their budgets from the control of the SAPS and clearly defines the powers, roles and functions of these two entities.
Community policing has been strengthened through the introduction of Community Policing Forums at police stations countrywide. The introduction of these structures at a local level has had a significant impact on both the fight against crime and the police’s approach to communities.
However, a review is necessary on the mandate and functions of these structures to streamline their deliberations and to address the different schools of thought around their location. Such intervention will ensure the sustenance of these structures and strengthen its envisioned role.
Whilst the causes of crime are complex and diverse, it is acknowledged that there are a host of factors which impact on crime. These include inadequate access to basic services such as housing; education and health; social services; as well as unemployment.
Therefore, improved planning and co-ordination is required to enhance the conditions of safety. The strengthening of partnerships and co-operation among relevant organs of state at local, provincial and national spheres of government, including community stakeholders also has an impact on the approach of addressing crime.
This said, for us to swiftly and effectively fight crime; we need to ensure we have police officers who are well-trained on an ongoing basis. That is why the first step was a review of our current recruitment process. As you would know by now; we have changed the period from 12 months to 24 months incorporating both theoretical and practical aspects.
We are also now placing stringent conditions, with the emphasis on attracting the most talented and committed South Africans into the SAPS. It is our endearing hope that we will also be able to improve our human resource capacity, from recruitment to retirement, to make a difference.
We continuously stress the aspect of training precisely because when it comes to training, it is an ongoing learning process. It is all about improving at all times, it must be result-driven, and in areas where we are doing well, and we shall not change anything. We shall also ensure that we continuously bench-mark our training with international standards and other police departments worldwide, more so if we are to deal a blow to international crime syndicates.
We also cannot only focus on new recruits but are now empowering those police officers who are within. In fact some have been with SAPS for many years as such their expertise should serve as further arsenal. Now with the new national police commissioner in charge, we have also been assured that skills development and retention of skills remains a priority during this 2012/13 financial year and beyond.
Some of the training aspects are now beginning to yield results; for example, when one looks at how police are currently handling service delivery protests. The fact of the matter is that protests will always be there and we cannot have situations where there are tensions between the protesters and police.
We have consistently emphasised that protests are a democratic and constitutional right of every citizen to express themselves, which government fully respects. However what the Constitution does not prescribe are violent, barbaric, destruction of property and intolerant conducts, including provoking and touting police.
So as part of the broader Whiter Paper on Safety and Security review, would be to look at addressing this fundamental question. One of the things we have tasked police to do, is utilising water cannons during protests instead of rubber bullets.
A further important aspect which we are addressing as part of the legislative review process is the apportioning of responsibility when it comes to policing. If one looks at the current legislation, somehow police are expected to solve even matters that are beyond their control.
To demonstrate this point, you have a case of domestic violence or spousal violence, wherein a husband abuses a wife. Police are often called and they respond, arrest the perpetrator. Have we addressed the issue holistically by arresting the abuser? We do not think so.
The fundamental question is how can we all of us as society, prevent such acts from happening? This is where a cluster approach becomes crucial, with the involvement of social workers, justice, correctional, etc and that is why in most cases, police must and do not have the capability to sort love relationships.
We have also tasked the police management as part of their priorities, to address the issue of building of police stations. One of our approaches in dealing with crime will be on ensuring that we build police stations in areas which, for whatever reason, were neglected in the past. It is unacceptable for society to travel distances to report criminals.
That is why the priority will be to build police stations around rural areas and townships; and to ensure they are correctly capacitated not only with committed personnel, but improved systems and operations. This will then intensify our resolve to win this war on crime. It will further make a categorical statement that no longer would we allow this community to walk long distances to lodge a complaint or report any criminal activity.
We have also made our expectations clear to the police management, that we shall reward excellence but equally crack the whip on underperformance and poor management, particularly at police station level. The emphasis is simple and clear: we shall not celebrate mediocre performance.
That is why three years ago we began paying attention to this issue, to ensure clear lines of command and control and instill a sense of discipline amongst the members. At the centre of this perspective, was the need to strengthen the foundation for community policing, improved accessibility and accountability.
The battle against crime is a daunting task, yet doable and achievable. We are led to believe that since we commenced with the summit yesterday, the people of Mpumalanga and South Africa are eagerly awaiting the outcome of this gathering. What they are awaiting for are not PowerPoint presentations and papers, but clear and pragmatic actions in dealing with crime.
As we conclude this summit, let the outcomes ensure that integration and partnerships in crime prevention are strengthened. Let this summit provide hope to citizens of Mpumalanga that this government shall not rest in ensuring their safety; at their places of work, at their homes, at their recreational places.
Together We Can Do More to Defeat Crime.
I thank you.