Civil rights organisation Action Society has joined calls from the Western Cape to decentralise the South African Police Service.
Such a move would effectively disband the national policing body, and police services would be controlled at a provincial level.
The association’s Ian Cameron said that federal police, specifically in the DA-governed Western Cape, is the answer to restoring accountability and improving service delivery.
“Action Society fully supports Western Cape Premier Alan Winde’s suggestion for the devolution of powers of the South African Police Service,” said Cameron.
“Simply put, it is devolution from a failing national state so that voters who vote for competent government can get the services they vote for; that will be the case in the Western Cape,” Cameron added.
Cameron’s comment came after Police Minister Bheki Cele suggested that calls to split the national ministry had racial undertones and ultimately only served a particular race.
“The topic itself is disguised in a particular skin colour for the benefit of a particular skin colour.”
He said the DA likened Africans living in the Western Cape to foreigners.
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Cameron said the idea would be much better for the safety of South African citizens who vote for government officials that support community-based policing.
“They then will not be dependent on a national body that has been tarnished by political interference for years,” said Cameron.
In the past couple of years, the Western Cape has had the largest majority of vacant posts in the police compared to other provinces.
A report by the Public Service Commission published in 2018 found that 85% of police stations in the Western Cape are understaffed.
A year later, in 2019, the Western Cape police ombudsman indicated that the ratio of officers to the population fell well short of the UN’s recommendation of 1:2, with South Africa’s ratio sitting at 1:38.
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“If the devolution of the SAPS does not happen, it simply means that policing will further deteriorate, and we will be increasingly reliant not only on community safety structures but also on provincial and local government law enforcement structures that don’t always have the same broad mandate that the South African Police Service does,” explained Cameron.
Although Action Society feels strongly that community-based policing structures are important, statutory law-enforcement bodies like the SAPS are crucial in a country crippled with violent crime.
Cameron claims that the ANC-led national government is deliberately understaffing the Western Cape police to turn voters against the DA-led government.
“Most people are not aware that policing falls under the national government. We all know that governance in the Western Cape is far better than the rest of the country. A federal system will also ensure that money for policing goes to policing and is not abused in another way,” concluded Cameron.
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