Cape Town - The Cosatu leader in the Western Cape, Tony Ehrenreich, has blasted the City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for safety and security for targeting motorists using cellphones while the city is besieged by gang violence.
Hours after JP Smith conducted an operation with traffic officers on various highways last week to confiscate cellphones from motorists who were using them while driving, Ehrenreich released a statement accusing Smith of “blatant dereliction of duty”, adding that he continued to ignore more pressing issues.
Ehrenreich, who is also the ANC leader in the city council, said: “Cosatu is astounded that JP Smith focuses on cellphones, when the city is facing an unprecedented attack on its citizens by criminal elements.
“The people of the city are desperate for help to secure their communities from gang attacks.”
Smith responded that while it was not within the City of Cape Town’s mandate to handle crime prevention and gang-related violence, it had nevertheless set up a task force to help curb gang violence.
“The city will continue to do what we can to improve the lives of our residents, but with a 700-strong metro police staff complement we cannot continue to compensate for the SAPS’s apparent shortcomings and the lack of criminal convictions that allows gangsters and drug dealers to continue their evil business,” he said.
Ehrenreich accused Smith of prioritising “dogs barking and people talking on cellphones”, adding: “This is a blatant dereliction of duty in respect of the most urgent challenges facing this city, all so that he can put out media statements about cellphone anti-crime gimmicks.
“Some things are just more urgent than others, but JP Smith seems intent on deploying resources to the issues that the communities of Sea Point are concerned about, rather than the issues that the communities of Mitchells Plain and Langa are concerned about.”
Smith said the fact that Ehrenreich had criticised him for the cellphone blitz “points to a fundamental misunderstanding of the functions of local government and justifies calling for Mr Ehrenreich’s resignation or dismissal”.
Smith said Ehrenreich knew that crime prevention and fighting gangs was the responsibility of the national government.
“Every component of the criminal justice system is under their control – the SAPS, who have an exclusive investigative focus (metro police are not allowed to investigate crime and murder), the National Prosecuting Authority, the Department of Justice and the Department of Correctional Services,” Smith said.
In spite of this, the city had gone beyond its mandate to dedicate resources to fighting crime by establishing a gang unit and a drug unit to assist the police.
He said that the city also piloted a project last year to deploy school resource officers to six high-risk schools across the metro and was finalising a plan for more such officers.
The city council was spending R28 million annually to combat gangs and prevent gang violence.
While gang violence was at “unacceptable levels”, it was a fact that more people died on the roads from preventable accidents, he said.
Road safety and traffic enforcement was a local government responsibility, and road accidents had decreased each year since 2006.
Last Wednesday, the Cape Times reported that at least 17 people had been shot dead in the city this month.