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?
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?
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.