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Briefing by the National Commissioner to the Standing Committee on Community Safety of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament.

Members of the Executive of the CPF attended a briefing by the National Commissioner (Compol) to the Standing Committee on Community Safety of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament. She was accompanied by a team of six Generals. The Western Cape Premier, Members of Provincial Parliament as well as a number of CPF Chairmen were also in attendance.

What attracted a great deal of attention was the briefing on minimum service level standards for visible policing units at station level and the methodology used to determine the resource allocation guide (RAG) at station level. Compol and her Generals went to great pains to try and differentiate between the theoretical requirements and the granted number of approved and funded resources. It left us with much confusion and uncertainty as to the differences between the ideal requirements, how many funded posts were granted and the actual personnel. There was without exception concern expressed by CPF Chairmen about staffing levels at all stations which contradicted what Compol said. It was pointed out by CPF’s that whilst duty rosters may well indicate acceptable staffing levels in many cases the officials were either often deployed elsewhere, off on leave, off sick, doing national duties or even on transfer to another area. It left us with the impression that Compol and her senior management are far removed from the realities of what is actually happening at station level and fail to recognize the difficulties Officers face on a daily basis.

Nevertheless, we appreciated the opportunity of being able to attend and interact in the debate and gain some insight into the operations of SAPS. It certainly opened our eyes and gave us a vastly different perspective of the difficulties faced at station level and on what lies ahead.

The Premier also raised a number of questions no different to what we as CPF’s have been raising over the years without any positive results. She pointed out that whilst the migration of people to the Western Cape had increased the population by some 30%, the strength of SAPS had in fact decreased. Consequently, preventive policing was not possible and she wanted to know when better protection could be expected. The Premier emphasized the dangerous circumstances under which policemen had to operate especially in dangerous areas when only one Officer operated in a vehicle often covering more than one Sector. Compol and her management seemed to be oblivious to these circumstances and were convinced that stations were capable of providing a satisfactory service and responding to policing needs. Compol highlighted that SAPS consisted of some 200,000 Officers with a police to population ratio of 1:360. The Premier disputed the ratio as in some hot spots in the Cape Flats where there was ongoing gang warfare and a high murder rate the ratios were 300% higher. Compol later conceded that every station was short staffed and that “we have to do with what we have as everything depended on funding”.

The Premier’s appeal for deployment of the military to assist SAPS in stabilizing the situation especially gangsterism in certain areas so that SAPS could be released to go about their normal duties was dismissed by Compol. Compol was adamant that SAPS was providing a good, safe and secure service and needed no assistance. The Premier contradicted this by highlighting the current situation where schools had to be closed because of gang warfare in Manenburg, the ongoing disruption of services by protesters, the dumping of faecies on the steps of the legislature building, the periodic disruption of the N2 which is a main artery into the city and the disruption of access to the international airport. Full particulars of these offences including the names and addresses of the culprits had been provided to SAPS but nothing was being done. The Premier felt that SAPS did not have the resources or capability to cope with the situation. She further indicated that some R6mil had to be taken from the education budget so as to deploy additional Metro police to the affected areas to contain the problems. Compol’s response was that once the socio-economic problems were sorted out in the province, matters would improve.

The Premier questioned the wisdom of disbanding Special Units especially those dealing with gangs and drug related offences and appealed for these to be reinstated. Compol did not consider reinstatement necessary as SAPS were now approaching these matters in a more scientific manner but did not elaborate.

When reference was made by Community Safety to the positive contribution the CPF’s were making in identifying systemic problems at sector level, Compol expressed concern about CPF’s being used by community safety to monitor and spy on SAPS operations. Compol said that the function of CPF’s was designed to establish links between the community and the police and not to spy on them. It was pointed out to Compol that CPF’s also had an oversight responsibility and this revealed that many sectors were unable to meet the minimum requirements.

Compol elaborated on the issue of Reservists. No recruitment is currently taking place as the process is under review.

In conclusion, what was portrayed by Compol and her management does not leave us with much confidence about improving staffing levels. There is no likelihood of us receiving additional manpower in the foreseeable future. Clearly CPF’s need to become proactive and smarter and work more closely with their respective stations. Communication between the stations and the CPF’s need to be on a better standing.