The Western Cape Provincial Police Ombudsman has launched a formal investigation to determine if police stations in the Overstrand are being adequately staffed and resourced to carry out their duties efficiently and effectively.
The Provincial Gazette Extraordinary notice, published 14 May 2019 by the Western Cape Government after a request from Overstrand Executive Mayor, Ald Dudley Coetzee, also states that “any person or organisation may submit written representations regarding the investigation within 30 days of the date of publication of this notice”.
“I welcome the enquiry and, together with the station commanders of Hermanus, Stanford, Kleinmond and Gansbaai, will give our full cooperation to the Ombudsman,” said Brigadier Donovan Heilbron, the Overberg Cluster commander, in reaction.
The Hermanus Community Policing Forum (CPF), which provides the link between the police and the wider community, is fully behind the investigation. “Crime and unrest are adversely affecting our region, and road closures are deemed unacceptable due to the negative effect on our economy and the safety of residents and visitors to the Overstrand.
“Our communities are suffering daily from increased crime levels, with both residential and business properties being targeted. Our requirement is for our police station to be sufficiently equipped to respond to and investigate incidents and to make arrests, thereby removing criminals from our streets,” said the CPF in a written statement.
Once the Ombudsman, Johan Brand, has received written submissions, he and his team of investigating officers will begin the process of interviews and research before compiling their report.
Last year, the Whale Coast Business and Community Forum (WCBCF) requested that its members submit affidavits to the police about the impact of the unrest on their businesses and how the situation had been handled by police. Over 100 affidavits were handed over.
“On 16 December 2018, the WCBCF assisted in a process of collecting affidavits from business and property owners regarding criminal activities during the riots,” said Victor Sabba, a member of the WCBCF Executive. “These affidavits were submitted to the local SAPS offices. Over the past six months, the Forum has received no constructive response from SAPS, except to say that the matter was with their legal department. We will support and play an active role in any endeavour to hold the police accountable. Justice delayed is justice denied.”
Gideon Serfontein, the Chairperson of the Hermanus Business Chamber said, “HBC welcomes the opportunity to make a submission to raise awareness of the strain on SAPS resources in the Overstrand. A large number of our members have been adversely affected by lawlessness and an increase in various crime incidents throughout the Overstrand, particularly in the last year. “Proactive crime prevention activities and visible policing are important cornerstones in maintaining a stable and law-abiding society. The Safety and Security portfolio of the HBC will, therefore, consult with our members on the topic and prepare the HBC’s submission within the available time frame.”
“Province urgently needs more police officers,” says Winde
Western Cape Premier-elect, Alan Winde, told The Village NEWS exclusively, “Once my Cabinet is announced and we have had our first bosberaad, I will announce our plan for making the province safer. We will take multiple approaches.”
In April 2019, the Western Cape government declared a formal intergovernmental dispute with the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, over the shortage of police members, allegedly about 4 500, in the province.
As the Minister of Community Safety at the time, Winde said, “Our province urgently needs more police officers” and that the police force was “dramatically under-resourced compared to other provinces”.
“While one officer must protect 375 people on average nationally, in the Western Cape, the ratio is one to 509,” said Winde in a press statement at the time.
The Village NEWS reached out to the spokesperson for the national Minister of Police for comment. However, she was unaware of this investigation by the Ombudsman and asked that the matter be referred to the SAPS Western Cape Media Centre, which in turn declined to comment.
In particular, The Village NEWS wanted to know from SAPS what the current number of police personnel is in the Overberg and the Overstrand. In May 2016, SAPS, as part of its annual Policing Needs and Priorities (PNP) consultations with the Western Cape Department of Community Safety (DoCS), hosted a workshop for the Overberg Police Cluster. At this workshop, it was reported by Brigadier Heilbron that the Overberg Cluster had 68 schools, 49 public spaces, 14 taxi ranks, 21 informal settlements and 12 police stations, with a total of 538 operational members, 186 support members and 95 detectives.
Minister Cele is, however, on record as saying in April 2019 that there is not a general shortage of officers in the Cape and that the Democratic Alliance is mischaracterising police resourcing. “The findings did not say there was a shortage of officers. It said there was a shortage of police in black areas,” he said.
Masizole Mnqasela, the Democratic Alliance Constituency Head for the Overstrand, said in a statement that the Western Cape government has no executive authority over SAPS – a situation that he says has to change.
“We will take up the fight with the National Government, to get the powers of policing assigned to the Western Cape government so that we can hire, fire and deploy police resources as we deem fit, depending on the demands of our environment here in the province. We have had enough; the time has come to protect our communities, to save lives and grow the economy,” said Mnqasela. “We will not stop until the police responsibilities are assigned to the Western Cape government, even if it means we must go to the Constitutional Court.”
The Village NEWS tried to obtain comment from the Overstrand leader of the ANC but did not receive a response before going to press.
This investigation by the Ombudsman is just one more step in a process that started last year when protests and unrest in the Overstrand raised questions about the number of police and the resources that they had available in the municipal district.
One concern that has been repeatedly voiced, for example, is the fact that there is only one officer trained in Public Order Policing (POP) in this district. As a result, whenever there are protests, road closures, demonstrations or pickets, POP units from elsewhere in the Western Cape have to be called in.
According to SAPS, only POP units are empowered to deal with crowd management and violent community protests. At present, there are 41 POP units in South Africa which consist of four reserve units and 37 provincial units.
The office of the Western Cape Provincial Police Ombudsman was established following the enactment of the Western Cape Community Safety Act of 2013. Advocate Vusi Pikoli was appointed as the first Ombudsman with effect 1 December 2014. Mr Johan Brand, his successor, was appointed on 1 September 2018 for a non-renewable five-year term.
The Ombudsman and staff are mandated by law to serve independently and impartially and to perform their work in good faith without favour, bias, prejudice or fear.
Written representations should be submitted to the Ombudsman by 12 June 2019 and marked for the attention of Mr JJ Brand. The submissions can be delivered by hand, post, email or fax as follows:
By hand: 6th Floor, NBS Waldorf Building, 80 St Georges Mall, Cape Town 8001
By post: Private Bag X9043, Cape Town 8000
By email: email@example.com
By fax: 021 483 0660
For further information, contact Ms A. Lewis on 021 483 0669 or email the Office of the Western Cape Provincial Police Ombudsman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Office hours: Monday to Friday from 07:00 to 16:00 (excluding public holidays)