Max and Pet­ros face off over con­trol of cops

‘Op­er­a­tionally I am the chief’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - LYNNETTE JOHNS

PRO­VIN­CIAL po­lice com­mis­sioner Mzwandile Pet­ros has as­serted his po­si­tion as the boss of the po­lice in the prov­ince yes­ter­day, draw­ing bat­tle lines be­tween him­self and com­mu­nity safety MEC Len­nit Max.

Yes­ter­day he ap­peared be­fore the pro­vin­cial stand­ing com­mit­tee on com­mu­nity safety and made his po­si­tion clear: he had been ap­pointed by the na­tional po­lice com­mis­sioner and the na­tional cab­i­net and was an­swer­able to them. He said the pro­vin­cial depart­ment of com­mu­nity safety merely played an over­sight role.

But Max, speak­ing to the me­dia af­ter the meet­ing, in­sisted he was re­spon­si­ble for en­sur­ing the ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient work­ing of the po­lice in the prov­ince and he had the power to di­rect them.

The tense re­la­tion­ship be­tween Pet­ros and Max has been the sub­ject of me­dia spec­u­la­tion for two months.

Pet­ros and his top man­age­ment were called be­fore the com­mit­tee yes­ter­day to brief it on the en­tire po­lice op­er­a­tion in the prov­ince, from crimepre­ven­tion plans and statis­tics to phys­i­cal re­sources.

Pet­ros was asked by Pa­trick McKen­zie, an ANC com­mit­tee mem­ber and for­mer MEC for com­mu­nity safety, about his re­la­tion­ship with Max and whether Max was in­volv­ing him­self in po­lice op­er­a­tions.

Pet­ros said he was a dis­ci­plined mem­ber of the po­lice ser­vices and would not want to talk about his re­la­tion­ship with an MEC “out­side of this room”.

Pet­ros told the com­mit­tee he had worked with a num­ber of MECs over the years, in­clud­ing Hen­nie Bester, Wi­ley and McKen­zie.

“I don’t have to be liked or to like any­one. There are laws that en­able re­la­tion­ships and the con­sti­tu­tion is spe­cific.

“It is clear what the law states: op­er­a­tionally I am the chief. If any­thing goes wrong, if crime goes up they (the na­tional po­lice com­mis­sioner) will be looking for me.”

Pet­ros said the depart­ment of com­mu­nity safety, un­der di­rec­tor gen­eral Gil­bert Lawrence, played an over­sight role, much like com­mu­nity po­lice fo­rums at po­lice sta­tions.

One of the bones of con­tention be­tween Pet­ros and Max has been crime statis­tics, with Max ac­cus­ing six po­lice sta­tions of fal­si­fy­ing fig­ures. An In­de­pen­dent Com­plaints Direc­torate in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the po­lice sta­tions is un­der way at his re­quest.

Pet­ros main­tained yes­ter­day that crime, es­pe­cially vi­o­lent crime, had been dras­ti­cally re­duced in the prov­ince over the past five years.

He at­trib­uted this to a new style of polic­ing and ad­di­tional re­sources in ar­eas such as Nyanga, Khayelit­sha, Mitchells Plain and Guguletu.

The pro­vin­cial “war room” had also proved a ma­jor suc­cess and is to be turned into a pro­vin­cial com­mand cen­tre within the next month.

Pet­ros told the pro­vin­cial stand­ing com­mit­tee yes­ter­day that two Lans­downe po­lice in­spec­tors had faced an in­ter­nal hear­ing for ma­nip­u­lat­ing crime statis­tics, and faced dis­missal if they did any­thing of the sort again in the next six months.

The hear­ing of their two su­pe­ri­ors con­tin­ues.

Pet­ros said when he took over the man­age­ment of po­lice in the West­ern Cape five years ago the prov­ince had recorded the high­est mur­der, at­tempted mur­der, rob­bery and rape rates in the coun­try.

In the past five years mur­der had de­creased by 22.6 per­cent. In the 2002/3 fi­nan­cial year 3 664 peo­ple, most of them from Khayelit­sha, had been mur­dered. Last year the po­lice recorded 2 836 vi­o­lent deaths. The great­est drop had been be­tween 2002/3 and 2004/5 when the fig­ure dropped from 3664 to 2 839.

The po­lice want to get the mur­der rate be­low 2 000 a year.

Con­tact crime had also been re­duced from 134 310 in­ci­dents in 2002/3 to 91 241 last year, and prop­erty crime (in­clud­ing house bur­glar­ies), was down 27.5 per­cent, from 135 833 cases in 2002/3 to 98 540 last year.

Pet­ros said he was proud of the fact pro-ac­tive polic­ing, such as road-blocks and raids, had re­sulted in a 193.4 per­cent in­crease in ar­rests. In 2002/3 there had been 20 429 ar­rests, com­pared with 59 947 ar­rests last year.

A more pro-ac­tive stance against drug us­age and deal­ing had seen a 232.9 per­cent in­crease in ar­rests for dru­gre­lated crimes.

In 2002/3, 13 813 peo­ple were ar­rested; last year 45 985 peo­ple were ar­rested for drug-re­lated crimes.

While there had been a drop from 9 848 sex­ual of­fences in 2002/3 to 8 623 last year, Pet­ros con­ceded this fall was due to un­der-re­port­ing.

His great­est con­cern was the high num­ber of chil­dren re­ported miss­ing and that of­ten their par­ents were un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol.

He ap­pealed to Wi­ley, say­ing more needed to be done to deal with the causes of crime, and the Depart­ment of So­cial De­vel­op­ment and Ed­u­ca­tion needed to play a big­ger role.

PIC­TURE: BREN­TON GEACH

BIG BOSS: Flanked by his sub­or­di­nates – deputy pro­vin­cial po­lice com­mis­sion­ers Hen­drik Burger and Thu­lani Nto­bela – pro­vin­cial po­lice com­mis­sioner Mzwandile Pet­ros as­serted his role as boss of the po­lice in front of the com­mu­nity safety stand­ing com­mit­tee yes­ter­day.

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