If we South Africans are going to build a functional, peaceful society one thing is certain: it can only happen if everybody plays by the same rules. That means we need an honest, professional police force able to uphold our laws.
Lawlessness has become tightly woven into the fabric of our society. So much so that people have long since stopped hoping and believing they will ever feel really safe in South Africa.
Yet we can win the fight against crime. SAPS is in crisis, but the solutions are obvious. If we fix the fundamentals in SAPS, we can turn it into an honest, professional organisation that actually serves and protects South Africans.
The DA’s manifesto sets out our plan for fighting crime. We will overhaul SAPS to decentralize it and to fix the Four U’s: under-training, under-staffing, under-resourcing and under-equipping.
The DA is determined that responsibility for policing must be devolved to those provinces and cities that are up to the task. It is internationally accepted, and something of a no-brainer, that crime-fighting must be located as close to affected communities as possible.
The current one-size-fits-all approach where all important decisions are taken in Pretoria is inflexible and unresponsive to the specifics needs of each community. And it hinders the prospect for community-police teamwork that is so essential to effective crime-fighting.
Even though SAPS is 100% under the control of the national government, the DA has made good progress in achieving law and order where we govern. I can confidently say that the DA leads the best metro police forces in the country.
When Herman Mashaba became mayor of JHB metro in August 2016, one of the first things he did was to appoint an experienced, determined leader to run the Johannesburg Metro Police Department, in the form of MMC Michael Sun.
Two and a half years in, MMC Michael Sun has built a formidable law enforcement team to drive Mashaba’s programme of Buya Mthetho (bring back the law) aimed at building a culture of law and order in JHB.
The DA-led coalition government took the unprecedented step of recruiting an additional 1500 JMPD trainees. They are in the process of being trained and will graduate and join the JMPD by the end of 2019. This will double the JMPD to almost 3000 operational officers.
But even before it doubles in size, the JMPD has become an effective force, going well beyond its mandate of law enforcement, to fill in the crime-fighting vacuum left by a weak SAPS. So, they focus not just on traffic management and general by-law infringement, but also on drunk and reckless driving, vehicle hijacking, theft, unlicensed firearms, and possession of drugs.
JMPD has racked up some impressive achievements – and I can say this confidently, because they measure and report on everything. For example, they achieved a 28% reduction in fatal vehicle crashes in JHB metro this festive season compared to last festive season (63 in 2018/19 compared with 87 in 2017/18).
These are not just numbers. They amount to lives saved. Thanks to this 28% reduction in fatal car crashes, fatalities came down by 29%, from 103 to 73. This means 30 fewer people were killed this festive season than last.
Think about that for a minute: 30 fewer families lost loved ones – mothers, fathers, children – in Joburg this Christmas season. The DA-led coalition government is literally saving lives!
The JMPD has introduced a Whatsapp-based hotline, to enable effective teamwork with the community. And they have invested in an evidentiary breath alcohol testing (EBAT) machine, to improve the conviction rate for drunk driving, which is by far the most common recorded crime in JHB.
Slowly but surely, Buya Mthetho is coming true. JHB is becoming a dangerous place for criminals, rather than for innocent people. Just think how much faster this is going to happen once the JMPD doubles in size at the end of this year.
We’ve also proved ourselves in our other metros. Our longest track record is Cape Town, considered to run the best metro police in the country. With its “localise, professionalise, specialise” approach, the tiny metro force does its best to fill the huge voids created by a chronically understaffed SAPS in the metro, where deployment ratios are 1:560, compared to 1:369 nationally.
It focuses on crime hot-spots, using technology (CCTV cameras, ShotSpotter, and an ER system operational in all vehicles) and specialist teams to get maximum leverage from extremely scarce resources.
In Tshwane, the DA-led coalition government redirected a fleet of BMWs, purchased by the former government for politicians, to the anti-hijack team in Tshwane’s metro police.
NMB had no metro police force at all before the DA-led coalition took over in 2016. In just two years, we built a fully-trained 154 officer-strong force with 3 metro satellite police stations, 10 vehicles, a bicycle unit, a plainclothes (ghost) squad and a 24-hour manned call centre.
On 8 May, a vote for the DA will be a vote for effective policing and safer communities.