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SA: Bheki Cele: Address by Police Minister, n the occassion of the National Council of Provinces Debate on the devolution of SAPS (16/09/2021)

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SA: Bheki Cele: Address by Police Minister, n the occassion of the National Council of Provinces Debate on the devolution of SAPS (16/09/2021)

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Police Minister Bheki Cele

16th September 2021

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Chairperson and honourable members, receive our revolutionary greetings this afternoon as we engage and deliberate on this fundamental subject that talks to our constitutional mandate as the South African Police Service; to prevent, combat and investigate crime, to maintain public order, to protect and secure the inhabitants of the Republic and their property and to uphold and enforce the law.

Honourable members, I am deliberately reflecting on what Section 205 of the Constitution instructs us to do, which must be read together with Section 199 (1) which reads “The security services of the Republic consist of a single defence force, a single police service and any intelligence services established in terms of the Constitution.” Quoting the constitutional obligations in commencing this debate is aimed at minimizing the remnants of amnesia that sometimes cripple those who have initiated such a debate.

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Chairperson, we don’t want to dragged back to the painful chapters of our history especially the hidden episodes of the security forces of that time; hence we will continue to throw our full weight in defending this hard-earned democracy and the strategic policy direction led by our capable ruling party.

Today’s debate is nothing but hungry politics of power that seeks to undermine the progressive gains of our glorious movement. The topic itself is disguised in a particular skin colour for the benefit of a particular skin colour. The DA ideology of thinking Africans in the Western Cape are foreigners is nonsensical and must be rejected; even when it is sugar quoted and hidden in big English words that gets thrown in this august house. Honourable members, this government is deeply entrenched in the ideologies of the forefathers of this democracy.

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When former President Nelson Mandela said, I quote “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die” unquote   

Honourable members, the equal opportunities President Mandela spoke about includes equal opportunities to serve and protect the citizens of this country. Therefore, the topic of the devolution of the SAPS must be weakened and paralysed. As a matter of fact, this government is forging ahead in fully implementing the ideals of the ‘Single police service’ as directed by the constitution. The rogue conduct by certain Metros of creating parallel structures of law enforcement aimed at undermining the constitution cannot be left unchallenged.

Chairperson, the Western Cape government continues to sabotage the efforts of adequately resourcing legitimate structures like the Metro Police, who serve as a force multiplier in the fight against crime. Instead those resources are pumped to fund parallel structures which adds no value in policing.  

These parallel structures of law enforcement have ‘EYES’; their deployment is very skewed, it is not informed and directed by crime trends. Instead the law enforcement is deployed to affluent areas with less crime, to the detriment of townships that are known to be the biggest contributors of crime in the Western Cape.    

To this end, the ANC government is progressing with speed in introducing legislation that will add value to democratic policing. The SAPS amendment Bill and IPID amendment Bill are at an advance stage in this regard.

Central Command  and Control Policing Approach 

Chairperson, crime syndicates knows no borders nor provincial boundaries, therefore our integrated approach in the fight against crime cannot be derailed by such political debates. The notion of the central command and control approach to policing is progressive and it must be supported.

It is a known fact that many criminal syndicates are recruiting across provinces and committing cross provincial crimes. Police have recently taken down Cash-in Transit gangs made up of individuals from various provinces, even suspects from neighbouring countries. An integrated multi-disciplinary operation informed by central command, was established to take down the criminal gang any many other highly sophisticated syndicates. 

This is not about the Centralisation of the Policing, Chairperson, it is about the Central Command and control of policing.

Central Command is about combining resources across government and working in tandem, to enable police to chase crime in all corners of the country. Working in silos is simply not an option, if we are indeed serious about effective and efficient policing.

At this juncture, there is no legislative power that enables provinces to “take over” a national competency such as policing. This is because the country is policed in a uniform manner and all South Africans are entitled to policing of an equal standard.  Every citizen of this country has a right to access an efficient and professional police service, such a service cannot be a luxury afforded to a few or to the rich. Policing simply cannot be commodified nor can it be commercialized.  

It is on this score that I submit that the “taking over” of policing by provinces will be detrimental to policing as a whole and will diminish the role and responsibility of the National Commissioner, who is in law, responsible to command and control the policing across the country.

Central Resourcing for Effective and Efficient Policing 

Chairperson, the implementation of an integrated resource plan and sharing of police resources is aimed at advancing a coordinated policing approach across all three spheres of government.  

This forms part of the national crime prevention strategy, that seeks to present a model for safety planning through an integration of resources from all stakeholders involved including SAPS as the lead department. This extends to local and metropolitan municipality, safety departments, registered private security companies and community safety structures led by Community Policing Forums.

Meanwhile, part of the police integrated crime prevention strategy, includes the National Safer City project which is piloted in identified cities; with the aim of integrating and maximizing on advanced technology to fight crime more effectively.

Other examples include Rural Safety Strategy and the Royal Reserve Policing concept that has seen amongst other things, police reservists as force multipliers in traditionally-led communities and to strengthen their capacity and address criminality in rural areas across the country. 

Chairperson,

The design of the SAPS ensures that certain units within the police, operate within a province but reports to a national structure for proper coordination and sharing of resources. Such units include the Family Violence Child Protection Sexual offences (FCS) unit; which is responds directly to Gender Based Violence related crimes and other crimes committed against women and children.  

By conferring unlimited powers to a Province, the functionality of such units will be undermined and disfunctional; and this will have a direct effect in jeopardising coordinated efforts aimed at addressing GBVF related crimes. An integrated approach in dealing with GBVF is currently aligned and led at a central point, with the aim of ensuring equal access to services and resources which are aimed at fighting the scourge of crimes against women and children.

Equally, investigations of cases will also not be spared of confusion and chaos by this proposed devolution, in many instances, specialised investigative units operate inter-provincially with shared resources. Therefore, the proposal to devolve the functions of the SAPS will result in uncoordinated policing and such units not being able to perform their functions unhindered across provincial borders. 

I repeat ‘working in silos is simply not an option, if we are indeed serious about efficient and effective policing’

Combating crime through coordinated responses to policing 

Honourable members, the truth of the matter is that, fighting crime is everybody’s responsibility regardless of any political affiliation. This political point scoring on this subject must be minimized if indeed our priority is about the safety of fellow South Africans and not about political power.

The unfortunate events of the civil unrest in KwaZulu – Natal and Gauteng in July should not be thrown yet again into a political tennis court. About 359 people lost their lives and numerous businesses closed down during the catastrophic scenes of violence and unrest. As responsible leaders entrusted by our people, as representatives in parliament and NCOP; we should refrain from politicizing this subject but rather contribute towards the efforts of rebuilding in those communities. His Excellency, President Cyril Ramaphosa has instituted a capable team to find answers to the many questions about failed insurrection.    

Having said that, it is important to note that the central resourcing approach and central command and control, contributed immensely in bringing stability during the civil unrest and violence period. Police members from other provinces were called up to support policing in the affected provinces. We saw this in KZN and to date, some of those members are still stationed there and remain on high alert.

If the Province had unfettered powers, as proposed by this devolution of the SAPS debate, that would have worsened the situation and limited the support by national units and other provincial members in case of such an emergency.

Chairperson, just like any institution, the SAPS is confronted with challenges in its day-to day policing activities and this reality is NOT unique to us.

The problems we face as an organization are compounded by a bleeding police service due to natural attrition amongst others.

Budget cuts and the impact of COVID-19 on the current recruitment of our workforce has also added to this challenge.  But despite this, thousands of South African Police Service members continue to meet their constitutional obligations of preventing, combating and investigating crime.

Conclusion 

Chairperson, in conclusion – our contribution to this debate was to provide leadership to our colleagues in the opposition benches; such debates needs wisdom and understanding of issues and most importantly contextualizing those and bring them close to reality. We can’t all participate in this political drama at an expense of the safety of fellow South Africans; this debate is a wrong call by the opposition; however, our participation in the debate, placed the DA and others into a political lecture of understanding and respecting our constitutional obligations as leaders. 

I thank you.      

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