Understanding Nelson Mandela Bay’s Metro Police force

BY BY YOLANDA PALEZWENI AND GRAEME LUND - NOVEMBER 30, 2016

Perhaps no other project of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality has had a tumultuous beginning as its much vaunted crime busting unit – the Metro Police Force, which is still to become fully-functional. To date, many residents still do not know where the unit fits in or what powers it has in the overall system of combating crime and gangsterism that continues to plague the Bay. 

It all started months ahead of the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup, when the Nelson Mandela Bay announced that a project team had been tasked with coming up with a plan to establish a Metro Police service for the region. That made some sense as thousands of foreign tourists were expected on our shores for the World Cup – and needed to be assured of their safety, given the country’s unpleasant image with regards to crime.

Still, the World Cup came and went, without action on the force. In 2013, the plan was declared a special project of the Executive Mayor after then Mayor, Ben Fihla, took reins at City Hall.

Fihla on 16 April of that year, boldly announced; “The establishment of the Metropolitan Police Force is well underway as we are in the process of putting the necessary pillars in place to have it off the ground within the next couple of months.”

But until 2016, Pinkie Mathabethe, who was employed to be the Metro Police Chief back in 2014, had no actual police force to lead. In June 2016, she was fired for apparently failing to disclose a second income and for under-performing.

This was after the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, now under the leadership of former Executive Mayor, Danny Jordaan, finally launched the Metro Police force in May 2016 – some six years after the force got the nod from Councillors. The force was first seen on the road that same month.

Even on the day of its launch, things were actually not as smooth sailing as some disgruntled officers from the Nelson Mandela Bay’s Traffic Department (NMBTD), which is among the many law enforcement agencies that the new force would have to work with, claimed that they had been ambushed. Understandably, they also did not know exactly what the mandate of the new force was and felt their jobs were on the line.

Since the launch, the force made headlines as it was plagued with labour disputes, recruitment and training hiccups as well as the unceremonious dismissal of Mathabathe.

What is the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Police force?

RNEWS contacted the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Police Force (NMBMP) in an effort to clear the confusion about the entity and explain its operations as well as its relationship with the other law enforcement agencies that were already established in Nelson Mandela Bay.

According to Public Relations and Events Management Officer at the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, Princess Tobin-Diouf, Metropolitan police units are the separate police forces maintained by some municipalities and are responsible for traffic policing and enforcing local by-laws (find NMBM’s by-laws here) within the municipality.

A by-law (sometimes also spelled bylaw or bye-law) is a rule or law established by a community to regulate itself, as allowed or provided for by some higher authority. The higher authority, generally a legislature or some other government body, establishes the degree of control that the by-laws may exercise. The by-laws, which the Metro Police will enforce have been established by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.

Metro Police units already exist in a number of major South African cities, and it’s no different in the Nelson Mandela Bay, as they intend to perform the same duties, she said.

Mandate of the Metro Police Force

According to Tobin-Diouf, the NMBMP is mandated to perform three functions, namely: Road Traffic Law Enforcement; By-Law Enforcement and Social Crime Prevention.

The SAPS is solely mandated to perform crime prevention duties in accordance with National and Provincial legislation as well as the Criminal Procedure Act.

Officers from the NMBTD are mandated to perform their duties under the National Road Traffic Act, as well as to promote road safety; provide a licensing function; provide internal and external training.

The Metro Police do not investigate crimes and they do not have police cells in which to incarcerate suspects. Once an arrest is made, the suspect is handed over to the SAPS for follow up investigations.

In July 2014, prior to becoming Executive Mayor, Athol Trollip said, "The NMB Metro Police under the DA will have dedicated anti-gang and anti-drug units, to assist the SAPS in fighting gangsterism and crime."

This has yet to be confirmed.

The structure of the Metro Police

The Metro Police Force falls under the municipality’s Safety and Security Directorate, which is headed by the controversial Linda Mti.

According to Tobin-Diouf, the structure of the NMBMP, like others elsewhere in South Africa, consists of a Metro Police Chief, Deputy Metro Police Chief, Directors, Senior Superintendents, Superintendents, Inspectors, Sergeants and Constables.

At the end of October, Mayor Trollip announced the appointment of Yolanda Faro as the new Metro Police Chief. She will take up her post on the 1st December 2016.

Faro comes with a Bachelor of Technology in Policing, a National Diploma in Policing and 15 years of Safety & Security experience, having most recently held the position of Acting Metro Police Chief in the City of Cape Town.

“After years of uncertainty and sub-standard management, our Metro Police Service is now under world-class leadership, backed by years of exceptional experience," said Trollip.

“Safety & Security is a priority for the Metro’s new leadership. We are working tirelessly to build a Metro Police Service that is fully capacitated to fight crime, enforce by-laws and administer traffic regulations. As such, we plan to have 50 fully compliant and trained officers on the beat by the end of this year.”

Operational resources for day to day operations are still being issued to officers.

For residents, who cannot identify them, Tobin-Diouf said that the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Police are easily identified by their distinctive blue-top-brown-pants uniform with a blue and white checkered band on their hats.

Resources available

In order for the local Metro Police to perform their duties, which include street patrols, they had only 12 vehicles available at the time of the interview. The total number of Metro Police personnel, however, stood at 207.

The 12 vehicles included:–

  • 4 X Toyota Double Cab LDV’s;
  • 4 x Nissan NP200 LDV’s; and
  • 4 X Honda Patrol Motorcycles.

These vehicles are also clearly marked with the same blue and yellow checkered bands.

The Metro Police Force also utilises a network of CCTV cameras that were installed in various crime hotspots within the Metro. These cameras are monitored by Metro Police officers at their central communication centre. Thus, if a crime or disturbance is picked up on the CCTV cameras, a patrol is quickly sent out to deal with it.

Video footage taken by the cameras can also be used as evidence in court.

Working with the other law enforcement agencies

According to Tobin-Diouf, the Metro Police is still being equipped and trained to work synergistically with the Traffic Department and with SAPS with plans to collaborate having been tabled.

“Once Metro Police is fully-operational, we will work together with all other law enforcement agencies.” she said.

She also explained that the force currently does not have a dedicated emergency number available; however the Metro’s current emergency number, 041 585-1555, is in operation 24 hours.

“Once the Metro Police is fully-operational, we will operate on a 24 hours basis with a dedicated emergency response number,” she said.

It also remains to be seen how well the new Metro Police force will work with private security companies, who seem to have adopted a ‘let’s wait and see’ stance.

Budget and Location

According to IOL, Acting Executive Director for Corporate Services at the municipality, Vuyi Zitumane, said that some R225 million has been budgeted for the Metro Police force’s operations this year.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Police Force is currently based on the 2nd floor at the South End Fire Station in Port Elizabeth.

The Linda Mti controversy

The lingering question regarding the NMBMP is how and why Linda Mti still works for the Municipality after Executive Mayor Trollip, in the lead up to the recent municipal elections, made it clear how he felt about him.

“The DA has fought the appointment of Danny Jordaan’s criminal pal‚ Linda Mti‚ since it was first proposed a few months ago‚” said Trollip in June.

The DA also questioned why the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) had not investigated Mti after he was fingered for alleged involvement in tender fraud and corruption involving around R1.5 billion by the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) when he was national correctional service commissioner. The party also felt Mti’s conviction for drunk and negligent driving in 2008 made him unsuitable for the job.

“We can’t have somebody with serious charges of billions of rand of corruption against him just never having to account for it,” Trollip told Eye Witness News.

However, things may have changed.

In a recent interview with RNEWS, Trollip said “I am not going to spend the next five years digging up old bones, otherwise I am not going to achieve my objectives going forward, but I am going to identify some current projects, contracts and even practices that are holding us back and costing us money and I’m going to go after those, deal with them and move on.”

The DA-led administration most recently seems to have mended relations with Mti. Deputy Executive Mayor, Mongameli Bobani, recently told News24 that Mti is working well in the DA-led municipality, “There was something about Mti before the election. Even Trollip was saying there was evidence that he is corrupt.

“He is co-operating well with this government because we are treating him like any other worker.”