Democratic Alliance (DA) Shadow Minister of Police Andrew Whitfield on Wednesday criticised the South African Police Service (Saps) Rural Safety Strategy under Police Minister Bheki Cele’s watch as a mere “tick box” exercise without any proper measures in place to tackle rural crime.
The Rural Safety Strategy was launched by the Saps in October 2019 after the DA’s launch of a similar strategy.
In an exclusive discussion with Polity, Whitfield said Cele’s plan lacked assessments on the performance of the plan in relation to reducing crimes in rural areas such as stock theft, farm murders and mass killings.
In recent years, the DA has pressured government to fight crime on farms as more farmers are attacked.
Whitfield said in cases where there was a strong collaboration with policing community structures, such as community policing forums, farm watches and neighbourhood watches, the Saps usually did a better job.
“The Saps cannot do this job on their own. If they want to succeed, they need to reach out and form partnerships with communities. That is one of the requirements in the Rural Safety Strategy, but it is not working. There is not sufficient collaboration, leadership or even understanding on how to make those partnerships work. I have experienced police stations with very good commanders in charge who are able to form partnerships and you can see that on the basis of their crime statistics and how they are able to tackle crimes,” he said.
He noted that Eastern Cape farmers were desperate for security as stock thieves run rampant.
Whitfield is planning to meet the farmers and assist them in forming partnerships that will help eradicate crime.
He criticised the police for sitting behind fences in police stations and not working with communities.
Whitfield believes that the greatest success of any safety strategy is the extent to which those responsible for the strategy, like Saps, are prepared to collaborate and engage.
He added that the Saps was not be able to implement its mandate on its own because it was under-resourced and poorly trained and had fewer boots on the ground than police officers behind desks. He claimed that in most cases police officers do not know how to use their firearms and also pointed out that firearms were sometimes stolen from police stations with police officers attacked and killed.
He also added that the Saps was failing to implement its mandate because of significant budget cuts over the last few years which resulted in them having to restructure the organisation, with many retrenched or allowed to go into early retirement.
“We are losing skills, experience and common sense dictates that a partnership policing-based, intelligence-driven structure is going to be the way that we need to turn the tide on violent crime in South Africa,” he stressed.
Whitfield told Polity that crime intelligence in the country had been contaminated by the African National Congress since Jackie Selebi.
He added that the entire intelligence ecosystem and value chain was completely compromised as it lacked leadership.
The DA has been consistent in calling for Minister Cele’s replacement for failing to deliver President Cyril Ramaphosa’s promise to halve violent crime in his first State of the Nation Address.
“I do believe there is sufficient evidence as well as public interest to replace the Minister of Police with someone who is fit for purpose, competent, qualified and who is prepared to do the work that is required to change the policy and policing environment within the Saps as well as to restore some professionalism and disciplined management within the police. The police is never going to be turned around until there is proper consequence management for the corrupt and incompetent individuals who are compromising the safety of our communities by not doing their jobs properly, and sometimes in fact wilfully and intentionally compromising the safety of our citizens,” he reiterated.
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