The civil rights organization Cape Forum has expressed its deep concern after reports that the police in the Western Cape have had to do without the necessary radio communication equipment for more than 13 years.
According to reports, police officers have to use their own cell phones and airtime to call for assistance, for example, because the technology used for hand-held radios is hopelessly out of date.
Cape Forum says the government’s information technology agency (Sita) must provide answers about the lack of infrastructure maintenance and renovations to the police’s radio network.
The organization says it has also received complaints from police officers who have to ask for assistance through WhatsApp messages and locators.
“Crime is and remains one of the biggest obstacles to economic progress in South Africa. It is particularly regrettable that police members put their lives on the line on a daily basis and are not even equipped with the necessary resources to fight crime,” says Bernard Pieters, associated with Cape Forum.
In a letter to Molatlhegi Kgauwe, acting managing director of Sita, Cape Forum asked for feedback on the alleged lack of support.
“Cape Forum is deeply concerned about the national police department and the police service’s inability to combat crime in the Western Cape. Our concern was confirmed by the former police chief, Gen. Khehla Sithole’s admission to the portfolio committee on police that the police will be hampered in the performance of its duties following the restructuring process to reduce staff in an effort to meet budget requirements,” the letter reads.
The forum also refers to ongoing gang activity in the province and says it is worrying that the Minister of Police and the police management are failing to ensure that more than 5 000 vacant positions in the Western Cape police are filled.
“We were deeply shocked when we were made aware of the fact that there is a problem with radio transmitters and related police infrastructure.”
The problem with proper radio infrastructure has apparently dragged on for more than 13 years.
“This not only puts the lives of officers at risk, but also reduces the police’s ability to communicate effectively and fight crime at the most basic level.”
The forum also asks Sita to give a full explanation of what the department has done to tackle the problem. “Why were previous tenders that would solve the problems rejected?” the letter reads.
Pieters says they gave Sita until September 30 to respond to the letter.
“We will continue to keep a close eye on the matter and will not hesitate to take legal action if attention is not paid to this,” says Pieters.
The Western Cape has been asking for some time now for the devolution of powers – such as those for the police – to competent provincial and local governments. John Steenhuisen, leader of the DA, wanted to renew in a question-and-answer session in parliament on Tuesday with pres. Cyril Ramaphosa knows why the national government keeps kicking against the devolution of powers.
However, according to Ramaphosa, cooperation between the different levels of government – rather than calls for the devolution of powers – is the answer.
“Those who ask for this kind of devolution are actually saying they want to be on one side, they want to be separatists and completely different,” the president said.