Police ‘must focus on illegal firearms’ to tackle crime in KZN
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DURBAN - A PLAN to deal with the proliferation of crime in KwaZulu-Natal must focus on illegal guns circulating in the province.
This is according to KwaZulu- Natal violence monitor Mary de Haas. She was reacting to comments made by KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala that the provincial government was introducing a recalibrated comprehensive intervention plan to deal with crime in the province.
The plan, Zikalala added, would work to disrupt gangs and criminal networks, intercept drugs, seize illegal guns, apprehend criminals and bring them to justice.
De Haas said the news of the government acknowledging the rise in crime, especially violent crime, was encouraging, adding political will was crucial in addressing crime. “A good start will be the taxi industry and private security because at almost all taxi ranks you have heavily armed men guarding operations and taxi bosses.
“The first question would be whether such guns are legal, as well as determining if those carrying them passed a competency test.”
The recent killing of a police officer in Ndwedwe was a further illustration of the abundance of illegal guns, she said. “Aside from just many illegal guns in the system there is a huge amount of ammunition across the province, you see that in how victims are killed in a hail of bullets; somebody is profiting from this enterprise.”
De Haas decried the low levels of crime intelligence across the province, saying the division had been allowed to decline because of incompetent management at local stations.
However, she added that the appointment of career police officer Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi as provincial commissioner was an important step and could bring back the respect needed at high levels of the police force.
Mkhwanazi’s appointment, she stressed, would go a long way in rebuilding the public’s trust in the police, but this would also be aided by political support for Mkhwanazi.
Chairperson of the community safety and liaison committee in the provincial legislature, Bethuel Mthethwa of the ANC, said they were equally concerned about the state of police stations in the province, especially the crime intelligence component. “When you have a police station broken into, that is a sign that things are not going well. Such an act is brazen and shows how much of an upper hand criminals are now enjoying if they can attack a police station,” he said.
The committee said it was seeking an audience with the police top brass to get a report on the state of police stations, as they had identified some that were in need of a shake-up following their oversight visits.
Another committee member, Blessed Gwala of the IFP, said unlicensed guns should be the priority for the police as they were used in attacks and robberies.
With the elections coming, the veteran politician expressed fear of an eruption in politically related killings.
Sharon Hoosen, of the DA, said it was disappointing that Community Safety and Liaison MEC Peggy Nkonyeni and Mkhwanazi had failed to attend a crime symposium where they were to present their turnaround plan to the committee.
The police had not responded to a request for comment, sent last week, by the time of publication.