Nyanga, Cape Town (Jenni Evans, News24)
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The most important job, the first job, of any government is to keep its people safe. To protect them from those with no regard for the law and no respect for the lives of innocent people.
It doesn’t matter where you live. It doesn’t matter whether you’re rich or poor, black or white, young or old, government has a sworn duty to protect you from harm and from criminals.
You have the same right to this protection whether you live in Sandton or Nyanga.
But when you look at how our police resources are allocated, it is very clear that this constitutional duty is not being honoured. Here’s the truth: this ANC government does not care about crime in poor communities.
Because the people who live in the communities that are hardest hit by violent crime, are also the people who receive the least protection from this government.
Nowhere is this more clear than in a place like Nyanga.
This police station here in Nyanga serves a community that suffers the worst assault from violent criminals anywhere in South Africa, and yet it remains completely under-resourced.
The people who live in Nyanga face the highest numbers of murder, rape and assault in the country, and yet they have the fewest police officers per residents in the country. In Nyanga there is only one police officer for every 628 residents. The national average is one police officer for every 369 people.
In fact, the entire Western Cape Province is under-resourced in terms of police officer numbers compared to the rest of the country, and this has been known for years. In Cape Town the situation is getting worse. Two years ago there was one police officer for every 439 people in the city. Today it’s one police officer for every 560 people.
How is this possible? Must we accept this unjust allocation of police resources from national government? Must we simply accept that a place like Nyanga will forever be known as the murder capital of the country? Must we simply accept that this ANC government refuses to listen to a community’s pleas for protection?
I can assure you a DA national government would not do this. We would ensure a fair allocation of police resources. We would match the number of police officers to the needs of the community, and these would be well-trained, visible police officers on the street, not behind desks.
We would also bring back the specialised gang and drug units that were disbanded back in 2004 and deploy them to the districts targeted by these criminals.
Half the murders in the Western Cape are committed in only 7% of the province’s police precincts. These are areas with hundreds of shooting incidents every week.
It cannot be that these communities must fear for their lives every day because criminals have taken over their streets.
It cannot be that parents have to worry all day, every day, about the safety of their children who are targeted by gangsters.
It cannot be that women have to worry about being raped and murdered every time they leave their home, and particularly after dark.
Let me state very clearly: The police are the responsibility of national government. It is something neither the Western Cape provincial government nor the City of Cape Town has any control over.
All control over SAPS – from policing policy to how and where they deploy their resources – is in the hands of national government.Our DA-run provincial and local governments have been fighting with the national ANC government for years to make the safety of communities like Nyanga, Khayelitsha, Mannenberg, Hanover Park, Mitchells Plain and so many other unsafe areas of Cape Town a priority.
The DA has been fighting for years for a fair allocation of police resources.
We have fought for more visible policing, more vehicles, more training.
We have also said that we need the deployment of the army to areas where gangsters have turned our streets into war zones.
We have asked repeatedly for regular crime statistics from SAPS – something they are obliged to provide us every quarter in accordance with the Western Cape Community Safety Act. We passed this act to force the Police to take this seriously, but they simply ignore this law!
So, today I challenge national government and the South African Police Service: Come with me to Nyanga. Come and speak to the people here who live in fear every day. Come and see for yourselves the effects of your under-resourcing of these areas. And then let us fix it together.
Let us bring the numbers of police officers in Cape Town’s crime-ridden townships in line with the rest of the country.
Let us re-introduce the specialised gang and drugs units, as was promised years ago.
Let us bring back police reservists.
And, most importantly, let us deploy the army to the areas worst hit by gang violence. Not to replace the police on the streets, but to help stabilise the situation and free SAPS up to do their job of investigating and making arrests.
Last year, then police minister Fikile Mbalula gave us his word that the army would be deployed to these areas by Christmas. But the minute he was replaced by Bheki Cele in President Ramaphosa’s cabinet, national government reneged on that promise.
Nothing has changed in these communities. Nothing has improved. So why is their safety no longer a priority for this government? Why break a promise to the people of this city who live in fear of violent crime every day?
To the people of Cape Town, I say: add your voice to mine in calling for urgent action to put an end to violent crime. On Thursday the 19th of July, let us march to this police station here in Nyanga, and let us call for urgent measures to combat gangsterism, drug crime, murder, rape and violent robberies.
These measures will include the deployment of the army to these Cape Town communities until crime here is under control.
These are your communities. They belong to you and your children, and not to gangsters and drug lords. Let’s take them back.
- Mmusi Maimane is leader of the DA.
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