The following remarks were delivered today by Democratic Alliance (DA) Leader, Mmusi Maimane, at the Dobsonville Police Station in Soweto, Gauteng. Maimane was joined by DA Gauteng Premier Candidate, Solly Msimanga, and Team One SA Spokesperson on Crime, John Steenhuisen.
Fellow South Africans,
We live in a country of insiders and outsiders – of those with access to opportunities and wealth, and those who find themselves locked out of the economy by bad policy and poor leadership.
We see the outsiders all around us – millions of people without jobs, millions of people surviving on tiny social grants, millions of people who struggle to make a life below the poverty line. They have been let down and forgotten by a government that became distracted by greed and lost all touch with the people.
You can see this greed in the stories that are reported in the news – scandals like Bosasa, the Guptas, VBS and Nkandla. But it is often the less obvious “legalised” theft of public money through outrageous perks and privileges that really show how out of touch they are.
Take safety and our protection by the South African Police Service. This year the total police budget is almost R100 billion, which has to cover the protection of around 58 million people in our country. But not every South African is considered equal by this ANC government. Not even close.
Nearly R3 billion of this SAPS budget is spent on fewer than 300 so-called VIPs, which works out to more than R10 million per person per year. Compare this with the amount spent on ordinary South Africans, which is just over R1600 per person per year, and you get a sense of the gap that exists between the political elite and the people they are meant to serve.
Nowhere is this gap more obvious than in the under-resourcing of SAPS stations in poor areas with high crime rates. This police station here in Dobsonville has a police-to-population ratio of 1:1121. This means there are well over a thousand residents for every police officer. Our Police Minister, Bheki Cele, admits that we should be striving for the UN’s recommended ratio of 1:220, but our national average is closer to twice this number.
But it is in the poorer areas of South Africa where the ANC government has truly failed to protect the people. There are many police stations where this police to population ratio has grown to four or five times the UN recommendation. Dobsonville is not alone. Parts of Diepsloot, Mamelodi and Atteridgeville are also severely under-resourced, as are many communities in Cape Town, such as Nyanga, Delft and Khayelitsha.
These areas grow and grow as people move to the city in search of opportunities, but the policing resources don’t grow along with them. That is why you have the situation here, and in many other places just like this, where people simply don’t believe that the police are able to help them and keep them safe.
Minister Cele says we are short around 62 000 police officers. But at the same time the ANC government spends R10 million per person per year of SAPS budget on VIP protection. Surely a caring government would look at this situation and say “No, this is wrong. Let us spend this money where it is needed.” But we don’t have a caring government. We have the ANC.
If you see convoys of black BMWs and Mercedes Benzes speeding through traffic with blue lights flashing, that is your government telling you that they will not be held to the same standard and the same budget as the rest of us. They did not join the ANC to live like ordinary South Africans. They joined the ANC to be treated like VIPs with money that was meant for the people.
Where the DA governs we have banned the use of blue light convoys for all our own public representatives, but we can’t control what the ANC government does. When you see one of these convoys speeding through a DA-run metro or province, it is always an ANC Minister rushing to the airport or to get home, or simply to go and get take-aways.
This has to end, fellow South Africans. We can’t allow this government to carry on living it up at the expense of ordinary South Africans who are under siege from criminals every single day.
Where the DA governs we have taken steps to correct this balance. I have given a directive to all DA governments to pro-actively seek ways in which to reduce all excess and reverse the VIP expenditure we inherited from the ANC.
We also adopted a Mayoral Handbook at our last Federal Council meeting in February which outlines the rules on finances and travel for DA public representatives, including car allowances. This is similar to the existing Western Cape handbook, which is a huge departure from the Ministerial handbook used by ANC Ministers to justify their flashy cars, first-class travel and protection services. When we take over as national government, ours will become the new Ministerial Handbook, and we will also slash the bloated cabinet to just 15 ministries.
Elected officials are servants of the public. And while the ANC might disagree and treat them like royalty at the cost of the taxpayer, you will find that all DA governments honour this principle.
But we need to take it even further. We need to do what Mayor Msimanga did in Tshwane when the DA took over there in 2016 and he discovered that the ANC had ordered 10 new BMWs, thinking that they were going to stay in office after the elections. Mayor Msimanga immediately gave those BMWs to the anti-hijacking unit of the Tshwane Metro Police. Our politicians don’t need the fast cars, but our police officers certainly do.
We need to put the needs of the people before the greed of the elite.
South Africa deserves a government that is prepared to do the hard work in turning SAPS into an honest, professional crime-fighting institution. This means recruiting only the best and most passionate candidates. It means training our detectives and specialist officers. It means building effective partnerships with communities. It means recognising the scourge of gender-based violence and putting resources towards tackling this issue.
South Africa deserves a government with a plan to reduce crime – a plan which acknowledges that policing decisions should be made at provincial and local level if they are to address issues unique to the region. A plan that calls for a Provincial Police Service that can work closely with Metro Police units, as is the case throughout the world.
South Africa deserves a government that gets things done, and doesn’t just talk about what it would one day like to do. While the ANC were talking about keeping communities safe, Mayor Mashaba went out and recruited an additional 1500 officers to the JMPD.
There is only one party that can be this government. There is only one party with both a proven track record where it governs, and a bold plan to keep South Africans safe in their homes and on their streets, and that party is the DA.
Fellow South Africans, we have no time to waste. Every day in South Africa, an average of 56 people are murdered. Every day 109 people report that they have been raped. Cash-in-transit heists now stand at almost one a day. Our nation is under constant attack from criminals, but the ANC government wouldn’t know it, because they are sitting pretty with their guards and their blue lights and their Bosasa-upgraded security systems.
That’s what you need to remember when you cast your vote next month. Do you want to vote for the safety of your own family, or do you want to vote for the VIP protection of some politician who doesn’t even know you exist?
I know what my answer is. So join me on 8 May as we vote to take back our streets and our neighbourhoods.
Join me as we build one safe, prosperous South Africa for all.