Fight against crime will be advanced through working with communities – Ramaphosa

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President Cyril Ramaphosa says the fight against crime will not be advanced through the devolution of policing powers, but by mobilising all available resources and capabilities – working alongside and within communities, to improve policing throughout the country.

 

The President was answering questions by Members of Parliament in the National Assembly Chamber on Thursday.

President Ramaphosa said government is working to build an integrated police service to ensure effective governance and accountability optimal coordination and alignment across all the spheres of government.

He said the fight against crime will not be advanced through the devolution of policing powers but by mobilising all available resources and capabilities working alongside and within communities to improve policing throughout the country [and] “that we believe is the best way in which we can continue to bring the levels of criminality down”.

“A central pillar of our fight against crime is to ensure that communities are able to contribute to improving local safety and security through effective Community Policing Forums. In line with the recommendations of the Expert Panel into the July 2021 Civil Unrest, we have taken steps to ensure that there are CPFs at all police stations throughout the country.

“To date, a total of 1 156 police stations in the country have active CPFs. The SAPS Act is being amended to strengthen the functioning of CPFs including through the provision of adequate resources. Government does not have a policy on devolving policing powers to provinces as policing is a national competency,” President Ramaphosa said.

The President said the escalation of crime and violence is one of the greatest challenges facing the country today.

He said government takes the issue of crime very seriously and to this end, “we have for both criminality generally and also Gender-Based Violence (GBV) have been demonstrably taking action to make sure that we address this”.

“To a large extent, the President said crime and violence is rooted in the social and economic conditions that prevail in our country, which have worsened significantly as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These conditions are characterised by extreme inequality and poverty, spatial segregation and high levels of unemployment. Many of the factors that contribute to crime go far beyond the scope of the mandate of the Department of Police.

“Central to the programme of government and our ongoing engagement with social partners are measures to address the social and economic conditions that fuel crime. At the same time, effective policing is critical to curbing crime and violence,” the President said.

He said he is confident that the Minister and National Commissioner of Police are competent and able to lead the government’s collaborative approach to building a South Africa, where all people are and feel safe.

He said the Department of Police, under the leadership of the Minister, developed the Integrated Crime and Violence Prevention Strategy.

The National Policing Strategy includes an initiative to increase the number of SAPS members which will improve visibility and capacity. It also involves skilling more specialised units, such as the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Units, Organised Crime Units, Public Order Units, Tactical Response Teams and others.

“The police continue to undertake targeted operations in crime hotspots. These include operations to tackle cross border crime between Mozambique and KwaZulu-Natal and the deployment of multi-disciplinary teams to counter the recent gang-related shootings in Westbury and surrounding areas in Johannesburg,” President Ramaphosa said.

The President further noted that the turnaround of the DNA backlog has almost been concluded and capacity at the Forensic Science Laboratories has been enhanced.

He said government has also seen the value of cooperation between the police and other law enforcement entities through the Fusion Centre.

“By the end of 2022, 193 people had been charged in COVID-related corruption cases, 42 court cases had been finalised with 40 convictions, [and] this represents a 95 percent conviction rate.

“Ultimately, crime is not just a policing issue but also a societal issue. That is why the strengthening of Community Policing Forums and other community-based initiatives is an essential part of an effective response to crime.

The fight against crime and violence requires great effort and focus. It needs an integrated strategy that harnesses all the capabilities of the police and criminal justice system, alongside the efforts of broader society,” the President said.

Meanwhile, the South African Police Service has also developed a National Policing Strategy, which was approved in September 2022 and is currently being implemented.