Axolile Notywala: DA and ANC continue to fail the poor on crime and violence while shouting at each other
The amount of time and energy spent by both the DA and ANC pointing fingers at each other with regards to crime and violence in the Western Cape should be spent actually doing something about crime and violence.
In the space of just six days we have heard from Lennit Max on behalf of an ANC minister, Khaya Magaxa (ANC), Dan Plato (DA), Mmusi Maimane (DA) and Zakhele Mbele (DA) on the state of crime in the Western Cape. This is not the first time that crime and violence, an issue of life and death for poor black people, has been used for party-political purposes and electioneering by both these parties. But in a period of four years since the O’Regan-Pikoli Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry into Policing released its report, both the DA and ANC have done little to nothing. The report contains 20 recommendations on how policing in the Western Cape can be improved. The 20 recommendations are directed towards all three levels of government. Most of these recommendations are directed towards the ANC national government because policing is a national function. Constitutionally, the DA-led Western Cape government has oversight responsibilities over policing. But, the responsibilities of the Western Cape government towards effective policing and creating safe environments is not limited only to oversight over the SAPS. The province also has oversight responsibilities over local government. The DA-led City of Cape Town continues to fail poor black people when it comes to safety. We know that areas with high levels of violent crime in Cape Town are also those with dense informal settlements and poor service provision, such as Nyanga and Khayelitsha for example. Policing in informal settlements is challenging. The Khayelitsha Commission’s report said: “The commission considers it important to emphasise, as several witnesses testified, that policing in Khayelitsha is profoundly challenging. Deep levels of poverty, poor levels of infrastructure and very high crime rates mean that Khayelitsha is among the most difficult areas in the country to police.” Not only is it challenging for SAPS to police informal settlements but it is also dangerous to the lives of the police doing this work. This is mainly due to two reasons. One is the fact that many informal settlements are extremely dense and there is no proper infrastructure. There are no roads and no public lighting. Police have to leave their vehicles on the edges of informal settlements and walk in small dark corridors at night, putting their own lives at risk. Police officers are targeted and killed in townships and informal settlements. The failures to provide adequate infrastructure, roads and public lighting are failures of the DA-led City of Cape Town and Western Cape government. The second reason is that police are not trained to police informal settlements. This is the failure of the ANC at national level. The Khayelitsha Commission in its findings concluded that “there are no established guidelines for patrols of informal neighbourhoods, and by and large, these do not seem to take place in Khayelitsha, partly because of personnel shortages, and partly because there is no requirement that they should take place”. Since the recommendations were made by the commission in 2014, the ANC-led national government has has done nothing to rectify this. There are still no guidelines for visible policing in informal settlements. Both these parties have instead attacked civil society organisations that have worked on crime and violence. For Maimane to claim that “the DA has been fighting for years for a fair allocation of police resources” is utter bullshit. The Western Cape Government has campaigned for more resources in the province but has tellingly not taken issue with the discriminatory allocation of resources between police stations. The fight for a fair allocation of police resources to poor working class black communities, like Nyanga, have been led by civil society organisations through advocacy and demands for recommendation 7 of the Khayelitsha Commissions’ report to be implemented. It took years and many protests for these organisations to even get the commission instituted by a DA-led government that was resistant for almost two years. The ANC-led government, with the ANC claiming to be a better governing party than the DA, has spent resources trying to block efforts led by civil society organisations that are aimed at improving the safety of poor black people in the Western Cape. They tried to stop the establishment of the Khayelitsha Commission and lost at both the High Court and Constitutional Court in 2013. Both these parties have failed in their duties to prevent and combat crime and to create safer communities for poor black people. Press conferences and statements will not protect people from crime and violence and will not bring back the many lives already lost. We will not sit by and watch while lies are being peddled by the DA and ANC about an issue that both have failed on. DM Axolile Notywala is the General Secretary of the Social Justice Coalition