The following remarks were delivered today by Democratic Alliance (DA) Leader, Mmusi Maimane, at the KwaZulu Natal provincial launch of the party’s team One SA campaign outside the SAPS Provincial Headquarters in eThekwini. Maimane was joined by DA KwaZulu Natal Premier Candidate, Zwakele Mncwango.
Fellow South Africans,
Today marks the start of the DA’s provincial election campaign here in KZN. Over the coming months, under the leadership of our Provincial Leader and Premier candidate, Zwakele Mncwango, we will take our message of “Change that builds one South Africa for all” to every town and village in this province.
Our campaign is about sharing our message with voters, but it’s also about listening to them. Whenever I speak to people about what concerns them most, the same two issues always appear at the very top of the list: Jobs and crime. No matter where we are and who we’re speaking to, people are most worried about finding employment and about being safe in their own community.
If we can’t find a way to address these two critical issues, then we have no chance at turning our country around and securing a better tomorrow. And it is this second issue – crime and safety – that I want to speak about today.
Across South Africa, communities are under attack every day from criminals who not only have no respect for the law, but also have no more fear of law enforcement. They do just as they please, leaving innocent citizens terrorized and traumatized in their homes, their streets, their schools and their work places.
Criminals have become brazen because they know our Police Service is so under-resourced, under-funded and under-trained that there is very little chance of them being caught. That’s why poor communities have become gang lands. That’s why drug dealers target young children outside their schools. That’s why we have the highest rape statistics in the world, and a murder rate that puts us on par with a country at war.
I will not accept that this is the way it should be, and neither will my colleagues. It is not only our duty as citizens, but our sworn duty as Members of Parliament and Members of Provincial Legislatures to perform oversight over SAPS – not to wave a finger at them, but to help identify where they are falling short and how this can be rectified.
That is our Constitutional duty, and it is very clearly set out in a Parliamentary document called the Oversight and Accountability Model. But here in KZN we are being prevented from doing our work. The Acting Provincial Police Commissioner has decided to instruct all police clusters and station commanders not to cooperate with MPs and MPLs who arrive to conduct oversight visits.
Lieutenant General Mkhwanazi sent out a memo telling all cluster commanders not to share any information with any public representatives, and particularly DA reps. There were occasions where he sent SMSs to station commanders when he knew MPs or MPLs were on their way there, telling them not to cooperate in the oversight visit. Fearing for their jobs, these commanders have no choice but to obey him.
We even heard of a police officer who is now facing disciplinary action for cooperating with MPs during an oversight visit. This is simply unacceptable. Any SAPS member who finds him or herself victimized or intimidated for allowing public representatives to perform their Constitutional duty can count on the support of the DA.
General Mkhwanazi is wrong. He is legally wrong, Constitutionally wrong and morally wrong. Whether he has issued this directive by himself, or whether he is acting on the instruction of someone else, it will not stand. The DA – and any other party – has both a right and an obligation to perform oversight. This oversight can be either pre-announced or unannounced. And I assure you, we will continue to perform our duty, whether General Mkhwanazi likes it or not.
We have been doing so for decades, and the effect of this oversight has always been an improvement of the conditions, the equipment or the morale at the stations in question. Oversight is not a finger-pointing exercise. It is a thorough assessment of where the gaps exist and what can be done to fill them.
Our reps have always had extremely constructive engagements with station commanders. The Station Monitoring Tool – a document drawn up by the Police Sub-committee in Parliament – is able to compile a detailed picture of a station’s weaknesses and shortcomings. One hour with a station commander using this tool is often worth weeks of work far away in a committee meeting.
We will not allow petty politics and ego to get in the way of the important work our public reps do. This is not about point scoring. This is about trying to keep people safe by ensuring that their local police are able to respond to crime and apprehend criminals.
We know how important this issue is to millions of South Africans, which is why it is one of the DA’s key focus points as we head into next year’s elections. We made a pledge to the people of SA that we will overhaul SAPS and turn it into an honest, professional organisation that is able to protect and serve all the communities in our country.
As we launch our KZN provincial election campaign today here in Durban, I would like to reiterate this pledge. The DA will not rest until people feel safe in their homes, and criminals feel unsafe.
Our election campaign message is about change that builds one SA for all, but we cannot build a prosperous, united and inclusive South Africa if we are being held hostage in our own communities by thugs. That’s why a DA government will turn the tables on criminals by transforming SAPS into a well-staffed, well-trained and well-resourced crime fighting machine.
We will root out corruption in the Police Service, we will re-train existing officers to ensure that they can serve and protect the public with pride, we will only hire people who display a true passion for policing, we will establish a world-class drug-busting force within SAPS and we will ensure that effective arrests are followed by effective prosecution and conviction of criminals.
That is the DA’s pledge to the people of South Africa, and the people of KZN. And so I urge you to join us in this fight to take back our streets from criminals by lending us your support and your vote next year.
If we then should disappoint you, then take your vote back. But first give us a chance to prove to you what we can do. Together we can build one South Africa that works for all and in which everyone is safe from crime.