Max and Petros face off over control of cops
‘Operationally I am the chief’
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.
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.