Budget ‘is not enough’

2019-07-17 15:00
MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Transport Mxolisi Kaunda.

MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Transport Mxolisi Kaunda.

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Members of the KwaZulu-Natal legislature are concerned that the R235 million budget allocation given to the provincial Department of Community Safety and Liaison (DCSL) is inadequate to deal with the scourge of crime ravaging the province.

They were responding to MEC Mxolisi Kaunda’s budget speech on Tuesday in which he said R90,3 million of the funds would go towards the department’s administration, and only R144,6 million would be directed to crime-fighting initiatives.

He said DCSL’s priorities for the 2019/20 financial year included clamping down on violence in schools and the taxi industry as well as social ills such as drugs and public protests.

He said targeting crime in the province was critical for its economic growth and job creation. “The incidents we have witnessed recently in schools are shocking and indicative of a sick society. The attack and killing of staff, the violence among learners themselves, are an indication that a lot more needs to be done to make our schools safe.”

Kaunda said the department was working with the police on an “adopt-a-school campaign” where each officer in a station was attached to a local school as its safety champion. Running parallel to this programme is another initiative where volunteers in communities are working with the police to prevent all criminal activities from taking place in schools.

Kaunda said the provincial government was concerned about the attacks on public representatives, including politicians. “This is destabilising governance and instils fear among people that being a public representative is the shortest route to the grave.”

He commended the work done by the police task team that is investigating political killings in the province. He said of the 170 cases allocated to them, they had made 174 arrests, with 44 suspects still in custody while 52 others are out on bail and 29 convictions had been secured.

Kaunda said task team must be afforded space and support to do their work without fear or favour because all suspects — even if they are politicians or business people — must face the full might of the law.

“It is not enough to arrest the hitmen, we also want to see even the masterminds behind bars,” he said.

One of the main drivers of murders in KZN, Kaunda said, was the proliferation of illegal firearms.

He said last year the police recovered 4 837 illegal guns in the province and that is why his department supported the initiative by Police Minister Bheki Cele to review the regulatory framework for firearm control, which it is hoped will reduce the availability of guns in SA.

Kuanda also bemoaned the increase in drug-related crimes, particularly amongst the youth.

“The worst enemy for young people since we obtained freedom is drug and alcohol abuse.”

He said DCSL would be working with the Department of Social Development to accelerate the implementation of the provincial drug master plan that will provide an overarching framework on how government should respond to the use, distribution and supply of drugs.

The MEC said the province was also plagued by a wave of public protests, with more than 400 having already taken place since January. He appealed to communities not to attack the police or vandalise public infrastructure during their protests.

“I’ve also been a victim of those attacks, I was hit with a stone during one of the protests,” he said.

Kaunda condemned the trend of “organised violence” targeting the construction and freight industries where certain groups have resorted to extremely violent behaviour in order to extort undue benefits from companies and government.

“This has come at a great cost to ordinary law-abiding citizens trying to make a living in KwaZulu-Natal ... If left unchecked, the reputation of the province and the country as an investment destination would be adversely affected,” the MEC cautioned.

'Police need more resources'

Members of the legislature commended the police who put their lives on the line every day to keep the province safe. They were, however, concerned that the budget allocation was inadequate to fully capacitate DCSL to make even more significant impact in a war against crime.

The IFP’s Blessed Gwala said: “The Treasury needs to understand that crime and insecurities poses a serious threats and challenges for our economy, as well as on the day-to-day functioning of our people.”

He said the budget should be mainly allocated to the provision of resources and equipment for the officers to meet their constitutional obligations to the nation.

This includes, but is not limited to, the prioritisation of building of more well capacitated police stations closer to the people in townships, informal settlements and rural areas. “Our farmers and farmworkers live in constant fear because the government does not deem rural safety a priority. They deserve safer communities and an honest and professional police service that actually serves them. However, this province remains severely under-resourced, under-trained, under-equipped and under-staffed.”

The IFP was also concerned about the sluggish pace in the appointment of a permanent KZN police commissioner. Kaunda insisted this was in the final stages.

The DA’s Sharon Hoosen appealed to Kaunda to deal with corruption within the SAPS, saying some police officers were in bed with criminals.

She said the DA often received appeals from SAPS for communities to work with them yet, when they do, nothing comes out of it.

“Why would the very people who are tasked with eradicating drugs in our communities not take action when genuine information is brought to their doorstep? Is it because some within the force have something to benefit from this?”

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