DA challenges Nhleko to answer five questions when he releases crime stats
Ahead of the release of the annual crime statistics on Friday, the Democratic Alliance (DA) has listed what it calls the five key questions that Minister Of Police Nkosinathi Nhleko will need to address.
"Tomorrow, the crime statistics for the period between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2016 will be released. Each year we see increasing levels of crime, especially violent and property crimes, and, while we hope that this year will buck the trend, we see no reason to believe that tomorrow’s release will be any different," the DA’s Shadow Minister of Police, Zakhele Mbhele, said at a press conference in Parliament.
"Of course, we cannot forget that there are many problems with the crime statistics themselves. When they are released, they are already out of date; the statistics are not independently verified, incentivising a decrease in crime rates often only incentivises under-reporting by the police; and specific crimes, such as farm murders, are not reported on.
"Nevertheless, the increases across categories of crime that we are likely to see tomorrow are a consequence of the shoddy state of the police service at station level, best characterised by the 'four U’s' (under-resourced, under-trained, under-equipped and under-staffed) as well as historically poor and politically appointed leadership."
Mbhele said if Nhleko, and the Acting National Police Commissioner, Kgomotso Phahlane, are truly committed to their mandate to effectively lead the SAPS and to enable them to do their jobs, they will answer the following questions:
- How will the chronic under-resourcing and under-staffing of the SAPS at station level be addressed and specifically, how will they ensure that the scarce resources at their disposal are efficiently used for the reduction of crime?
- What will the Minister do differently to ensure that SAPS Senior Management Service members are fit-for-purpose, given the training they need and strongly held accountable to carry out their jobs effectively?
- How will he ensure equipment shortages, which are currently not properly captured on the SAPS system, are identified timeously so that replacements can be issued? In addition, will he proactively pursue public-private partnerships to assist in this regard?
- What measures will the Minister implement to boost the Detective Services and fix the Crime Intelligence divisions?
- When will the Minister start releasing the crime stats on a quarterly instead of an annual basis?
Mbhele said that national government, "which has exclusive operational control and authority over the South African Police Service (SAPS), is responsible for keeping South Africans safe yet they have all but abandoned this manda".
"The DA in no way derives any joy from these failings because crime affects people in real and meaningful ways. As at the last crime stats, 47 people were murdered every day and dozens are traumatised in other violent crimes. This is the reality of crime in South Africa. This can only be attributed to poor leadership with skewed priorities and the chronic neglect of the basics of effective management and policing," he said.
"The SAPS has been plagued by the 'four U’s' for at least a decade, which directly impact on the police’s ability to carry out their responsibility to protect the citizens of this country."
In elaboration, Mbhele described:
- The appropriate resourcing of the SAPS is a national competency which has not been fulfilled year after year and is echoed by longstanding chronic under-funding.
- It is clear that where the SAPS are most under-resourced, crime is highest.
- Incompetent management and a failure to adequately allocate and make use of its limited resources constrain the SAPS’ ability to prevent and respond to crime (curiously, the only part of the SAPS that lacks for nothing is the VIP Protection Service that works only for the executive elite).
- Deficiencies in resourcing as a result of skewed policing priorities are no better evidenced than by the 325% increase in drug and gang-related crime since the Narcotics Bureau was erroneously disbanded in 2004.
- One of the most important and basic factors that allow SAPS officers to carry out their jobs is ensuring the officers are properly equipped so that they are able to deal effectively with whatever they may encounter on a day-to-day basis.
- Properly equipping our SAPS is literally a matter of life and death, for South Africans as well as the police officers themselves.
- SAPS officers should have access to the equipment, such as vehicles, bullet-resistant vests, hand cuffs or hand ties, radios, fire-arms, and computer equipment; which they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability.
- Data we have collated shows that where reaction times are long, the most likely cause is a lack of vehicles to enable police to react swiftly to complaints.
- The proper training of SAPS officers, both basic and on-the-job training, is vitally important to the effective functioning of the entire criminal justice system and acts as an important component in rebuilding the public’s faith in the SAPS.
- Yet it seems that the training SAPS recruits receive is lost along the way, due to a lack of leadership to enforce command-and-control and ensure strict adherence to what is taught in basic training as well as to implement on-the-job and refresher training continuously.
- A reply to a parliamentary question revealed that not one cent was spent on training SAPS Senior Management Service (SMS) members during the last three financial years.
- More broadly, out of the total expenditure by the SAPS in 2014/15, the spend on training and development while in the work place, represents 0.1% of total expenditure. This is clearly inadequate to meet the needs of strained police service.
- In the first quarter of the current financial year, the SAPS has already shed 1 000 members due to dismissals, retrenchments, resignations and retirements, according to a SAPS management testimony to the Police Portfolio Committee meeting in Parliament yesterday.
- SAPS management has reported to Parliament that our police service loses 6 000 members per annum on average, and most of these vacancies are not being filled. The effect of this is that police officers, and especially detectives, already constrained by under-capacity, will be further overburdened, which restricts their ability to fight crime.
- Earlier this year, a reply from the Police Minister to a DA parliamentary question revealed that almost half as many new police officers came out of SAPS training academies into active service in the previous financial year compared to four years ago.
- This is a very worrying trend which means the South African Police Service, already suffering from personnel shortages at station-level across much of the country, is shrinking and will have less capacity to prevent, combat and investigate crime in the future.
"For some time we have known that we are losing the war on crime.
"Last year, 16 out of the 26 crime categories for which data was collected increased. Murder, truck hijacking, car hijacking, robbery with aggravating circumstances, robbery at residential premises and drug-related crime increased," Mbhele said.
"What we need is a firm commitment form the Minister and Acting NPC that they will not stop until practical solutions are found to resolve the issues identified.
"The crime statistics also need to be put in proper perspective: these statistics, numbers and proportions, often hide the true face of crime which are the everyday people who have been victims. It is easy for us to forget that there are very real human faces behind each of these numbers."
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