After a year of start-stop initiatives, the opening of a formal inquiry by the Western Cape Provincial Police Ombudsman into whether the Overstrand SAPS stations have sufficient resources to do their job properly, is a concrete step in the right direction, especially so soon after the elections.
After receiving representations from the public, businesses and other interested parties, Ombudsman Johan Brand and his team will conduct wide-ranging interviews, cool-headedly look at the facts, and impartially and independently publish their report, devoid of the political rhetoric and uninformed opinion that has clouded many of the conversations in our community on this subject.
To be very clear, this inquiry is not an indictment against our local police. To come to this conclusion would be blatantly wrong and unfair. One should not equate under-resourcing with incompetence. In fact, the overwhelming majority of residents are extremely grateful for the quality of service, the conduct of officers and the professionalism shown by this dedicated team.
For many residents, ensuring that police stations are properly resourced is about protecting their businesses and property. But we must never forget that, in our community, women from lower socio-economic backgrounds are the most vulnerable victims of lawlessness and, unfortunately, violent crime.
The reality is that the debate around police resourcing in the Western Cape has been going on for too long, without conclusion. Even as recently as December 2018, Judge MJ Dolamo of the Cape High Court (sitting as the Equality Court) declared that the allocation of police resources in the Western Cape unfairly discriminated on the basis of race and economic status. SAPS, however, is appealing this decision since the finding is non-binding, seemingly using a technicality as an excuse for inaction.
This is why we must fully embrace this inquiry, cooperate with the Ombudsman and offer as much detailed information as we possibly can, because his report will not only impact the Overstrand but will also have reverberations for the Western Cape and South Africa.