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Cape Town - The Western Cape provincial government uses community police forums (CPFs) to spy on police, says the national police commissioner, General Riah Phiyega.
“There are now oversight and inspection mechanisms or impimpis (informers) to check how many cars are driving out of a station. It is very disheartening,” said Phiyega during a briefing on policing in the Western Cape to the provincial legislature’s standing committee on community safety.
Phiyega made her comment after an interjection by the provincial community safety department about how CPFs were helping them identify problems at police stations in the province.
She said the forums were designed to create a link between residents and the police, not to spy on them.
The department’s chief director for civilian oversight, Gideon Morris, told the committee the forums helped identify systemic problems at sector level.
“We ask our CPFs to visit the police stations at least five times a month and record the staffing levels.
“There are some sectors who are unable to meet the minimum targets,” he said.
The department was running the programme in 30 policing sectors and planned to double it.
The public gallery of the legislature was packed with CPF members and Premier Helen Zille also there to listen to Phiyega’s presentation.
Zille questioned Phiyega on why the police were reluctant to call on the SANDF to help as a peacekeeping force in areas where gangsterism was rife.
“This country is safe and secure because it is protected by men and women who are doing a thankless job,” Phiyega said.
She said the police were coping with gang violence, and schools in Manenberg had reopened last week because of their intervention.
Phiyega said it was the joint responsibility of all spheres of government to address socio-economic issues that helped gangsterism fester in communities.
“Drugs and gangs are a socio-economic issue, not just a policing matter, she said. “It requires us all to intervene,” Phiyega added.
Zille said that was why the province had budgeted R84 million to counter drug and substance abuse, and transferred R6m to the city to employ more metro police to help with safety at schools.
Phiyega said unfortunately the debates around policing had at times been politicised.
Zille agreed the role of police should not be politicised, but said schools had reopened in Manenberg as a result of the province and the city intervening because the army was not deployed to the area.
“So we cut the education budget by R6m to start to train new metro police,” she said.
The province is using funds from the departments of education, community safety and social development to pay the R6m bill.
Phiyega said the police had 199 936 members - one police officer to 360 residents.
“It shows we compare fairly well with many other countries.”
According to the police website, the police-to-population ratio is one to 245 in the Western Cape.
In the 2012/13 financial year, 220 newly trained uniformed police officers, 72 civilian personnel and 32 experienced uniformed officers joined the police in the province, while 462 left.
The number of newly trained officers joining the police in the Western Cape dropped from 1 014 in 2009/10 to 917 in 2010/11 and 232 in 2011/12.