Q&A

Sunday Times - - Opinion -

Peo­ple on the Cape Flats say the au­thor­i­ties are not pro­tect­ing them. Chris Bar­ron asked Western Cape MEC for com­mu­nity safety DAN PLATO …

Isn’t this your man­date?

My man­date is not to ar­rest or in­ves­ti­gate or draw up a docket and take a case to court. That is the sole re­spon­si­bil­ity of the po­lice.

Don’t you have over­sight?

That’s cor­rect.

So you’re in a po­si­tion to en­sure the po­lice pro­tect the peo­ple, but that’s not hap­pen­ing, is it?

The SAPS let go their spe­cialised drug units and spe­cialised gang units. We said to them, “check what’s go­ing to hap­pen down the line, you’ve made a big mis­take”. They said we just want to shout at them and crit­i­cise them, but now we’re pick­ing the fruit.

Were you win­ning un­til then?

It was be­ing con­tained. It went out of con­trol the mo­ment those spe­cialised units were thrown out.

Why didn’t you fo­cus more on com­mu­nity polic­ing?

What we have done is struc­tured, mean­ing­ful part­ner­ships with com­mu­nity en­ti­ties. We strength­ened the com­mu­nity polic­ing fo­rums, we strength­ened the neigh­bour­hood watches.

Didn’t you cut fund­ing to com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions work­ing on crime pre­ven­tion?

We never cut any fund­ing.

Couldn’t you have ac­cred­ited more neigh­bour­hood watches?

Yes, we are busy with that. And our neigh­bour­hood watches are do­ing ex­cel­lent work.

So why are the peo­ple out on the streets protest­ing?

The protest was never aimed at the Western Cape govern­ment, it was aimed at na­tional, be­cause the pub­lic aren’t stupid. They know the WC govern­ment has no op­er­a­tional con­trol over the SAPS. I can’t give di­rect in­struc­tions to the SAPS.

Aren’t you just avoid­ing ac­count­abil­ity?

If I had op­er­a­tional con­trol I know where the prob­lem ar­eas lie and I could have di­rected the po­lice.

But as you agree, you do have over­sight over the po­lice.

Over­sight doesn’t mean con­trol.

So you can iden­tify the prob­lems but you’re pow­er­less to fix them?

Ex­actly.

Why don’t you get your own metro po­lice more in­volved?

There are over 20,000 po­lice of­fi­cers across the WC. Metro po­lice in Cape Town is a force of only 500 men and women.

Is this be­cause their bud­get was cut?

Ex­actly. Na­tional govern­ment bud­get cuts do not en­able us to ap­point more metro po­lice. But when I be­come mayor of Cape Town I will en­sure we up the metro po­lice num­bers.

Where will you find the money if your pre­de­ces­sor couldn’t?

We will repri­ori­tise the bud­get. I’m go­ing into the city with a safety mind­set and I re­alise how im­por­tant safety is.

What about bet­ter in­tel­li­gence on gangs and druglo­rds?

The pub­lic pro­vide us with the nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion.

So why aren’t they be­ing ar­rested and con­victed?

Lack of ef­fec­tive­ness of the SAPS, and un­der-re­sourced po­lice sta­tions, which is a ma­jor is­sue in the WC.

Is there a po­lit­i­cal agenda be­hind that?

We be­lieve so.

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