The following speech was delivered in Parliament’s debate of the 2019 State of the Nation Address by Andrew Whitfield MP – DA Shadow Minister of Police.
Madam Speaker it is, to use his own words, shocking that in his State of the Nation Address the President hardly mentioned the one thing that all South Africans have at the front of their minds every single day: Crime.
A few token references to crime here and there and then, as if out of nowhere, the bombshell announcement that violent crime will be halved in the next ten years without even a hint of irony or an actual plan as to how this mammoth task will actually be achieved.
It appears from his speech, Madam Speaker, that the President is more concerned about bullet trains than he is about the bullets taking the lives of innocent South Africans on a daily basis.
While the President is dreaming millions of ordinary South Africans are having nightmares.
Nightmares of being, attacked, robbed, raped or murdered.
These South Africans are our Mothers and Fathers living in the Northern Areas of Port Elizabeth and Elsies River right here in Cape Town, who fear that their children, on their way to school or guarding cars outside a Mosque like 12 year old Aswin Jansen, may be mowed down in a hail of bullets fired from one of the more than 800 guns stolen from the Police and wielded by a gangster who was put back on the streets by the very criminal justice system designed to protect these children.
They are our Grandmothers like Nomangesi Peter from Luqoqweni Village who was kidnapped, tortured and paraded naked before being killed. They are too old to defend themselves from serial rapists and murderers who target these, our most vulnerable citizens in rural villages and towns because they know that the chances of being caught by the police are slim to none.
They are our farmers and farmworkers from the rural Eastern Cape to Thoyandou who live in constant fear that they will be next because the ANC government does not deem rural safety a priority.
These nightmares are not the imagination of some fictional characters living in a fanciful futuristic country. These are real stories about real people Mr President. They are experiences grounded in the harsh reality of millions of South African’s sitting at home looking to this Parliament and their President for hope that they can one day live in a safe city, town or village. Not a SMART city Mr President, a SAFE city.
They want to go to bed knowing that criminals lurking around outside their homes will get caught and that they will be locked up.
Surely this is not too much for them to ask.
The fact that there was absolutely no mention of rural Safety in the SONA demonstrates just how out of touch this ANC government is and how little it cares about people living in remote rural communities who are being targeted by violent criminals.
In KwaMlaza village in the Port St Johns Municipality, for example, violent crime has led to villagers fleeing their homes after 9 people, 8 of them women, have been hacked to death or raped and then killed in the past 5 years with not one successful prosecution. In this village the people have given up hope in the police who appear to operate on a catch and release basis allowing criminals to walk amongst their victims.
Every other day we read about farmers, farmworkers and their families being brutally attacked and often tortured by violent criminals.
In May this year, Tool and Liezel Wessels were attacked on their farm in Bonnievale. Boiling water was poured over her and she was made to watch as her husband was stabbed to death.
Your deafening silence on the violence committed in rural communities across our country is unacceptable Mr President. It is time for bold action to tackle crime and rural safety now, we do not have another ten years.
Madam Speaker, there is still time to turn the tide on the rural crime wave sweeping our nation if we act now. The DA has a rural safety plan which can restore hope and order to the most isolated and vulnerable communities: from the commercial farm in Viljoenskroon to the rural village outside Keiskamahoek.
It is a plan that focuses on building a smart police force equipped with the necessary knowledge and resources to deploy cutting edge technology in the fight against crime. We believe that the deployment of drones with heat sensing technology into rural communities will assist in tracking down criminals and bringing them to book. This is not a ten-year plan Mr President, this technology is available today and can be deployed tomorrow.
We believe that by establishing Rural Community Policing Units with community members trained as rural reservists policing capacity will be augmented in some of the most isolated regions of our country. The DA’s Rural Safety Plan offers tangible solutions to curb the rising tide of rural crime.
Madam Speaker, South Africans deserve an honest and professional police service that they can trust led by men and women of integrity who are well trained and resourced to keep our citizens safe.
In building an effective and fit for purpose SAPS a DA national government would move swiftly to ensure:
- A zero-tolerance approach to corruption within the SAPS;
- The appointment of fit for purposes officers and management who are passionate about policing;
- The retraining all police officers to serve and protect with pride;
- Making policing a provincial responsibility; and
- Establish an effective drug-busting force.
When it comes to fighting corruption Madam Speaker, this Parliament has an immediate opportunity to strike fear into the hearts of the corrupt and criminal elements within SAPS by appointing a permanent head of IPID with unimpeachable integrity who will clean out the rot that has taken over SAPS. This is our moment to give real hope to all South Africans living in fear that we are serious about their safety.
In spite of the President’s promises in the 2018 SONA that he would focus on the distribution of police resources to areas hardest hit by crime the situation is getting worse. In the Western Cape last year, half of all murders were recorded at only 13% of police stations. These are the stations that need resources Mr President. Murder in Philippi East precinct has increased by 180% over the five-year period from 2013/14 to 17/18, and by 36.7% in the last financial year. This station now has 1 officer per 344 citizens. Over the past two years, the Western Cape provincial ratio has deteriorated from one police officer to every 385 people, down to one police officer to every 509 people.
While the ANC government is playing politics with the lives of the people of the Western Cape, the people in Nyanga, Mitchells Plain and Hanover Park have to fear for their lives.
A DA-led national government would give more of the powers and functions of policing to provincial police commissioners and station commanders, so they are empowered to tackle crime on a local level.
Madam Speaker, in South Africa every day 109 people are raped, and 57 people are murdered. During this debate somebody will be attacked, raped or murdered.
The DA has a plan to turn this horrific situation around. The question is Mr President, do you?