Lawrence takes over as Safety's 'Mr Fixit'

law_20/07 The Argus Tough job: Dr Gilbert Lawrence says he will be implementing a turnaround strategy. Photo: Ian Landsberg, Cape Argus

By Henri du Plessis

Trouble-shooting is to be a major part of the job for the newly appointed head of the department of community safety.

Dr Gilbert Lawrence, director-general of the province for the past five years, was appointed the head of the department of community safety this week by Premier Ebrahim Rasool.

He starts his job on Monday.

Lawrence takes over from Mbuyiseli Deliwe, who was fired less than a year after being appointed to the high-profile post.

Deliwe's axing sparked allegations of irregularities in the department.

Rasool acknowledged weaknesses in the administration of the department this week and announced that Lawrence had been appointed as "Mr Fixit".

Rasool made the announcement at the same time as he revealed grim statistics that 105 children - 92 of them in Cape Town - have been murdered over a year in the province.

Lawrence said the province faced numerous challenges, such as the safety of children and raising awareness among communities of the problems facing anti-crime strategies, and how they should be involved.

"Clearly, we do not have a direct involvement in crime-fighting, because we are not the police, but there are major aspects to the role we have to play.

"We want to raise awareness and community involvement in collaboration with the police and promote our sector policing strategy, as well as get the communities involved in community policing plans."

His contract as director-general ends on Saturday.

"I have been director-general for five years and during that time there have been a number of major political changes, serious changes, in the province," Lawrence told the Cape Argus.

"We have had the Desai Commission and a re-engineering process in the department that led to some stabilisation.

"The premier and his staff have been implementing actions.

"So when I go there as head of department on Monday, I will be the accounting officer responsible for the budget, staff, policies and performance and I will be the one accountable for it.

"We all know there have been issues surrounding forensic investigations into the department and a standing commission's inquiries.

"It is now time to introduce good practice.

"We have to implement a turnaround strategy, and that would require the contributions of other departments such as the Treasury, and even the premier's office, among others.

"We need to put together a multidisciplinary team to implement the turnaround and principles of good practice."

Lawrence added: "I am also an ordinary citizen, and we are all tired of what is happening in our communities and to our children.

"There are upstream factors influencing crime in this province, such as alcohol, drugs, gangs and unemployment.

"These issues need to be tackled in an integrated way.

"We have targeted 15 areas in the Western Cape as hotspots and one of the first steps would be to pick up on the schools in those areas.

"This would involve other departments, such as education and community development."

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