DA leader Mmusi Maimane. File photo: ANA

Cape Town - Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane on Saturday laid the blame for crime and the severe shortage of police officers in Cape Town and the Western Cape squarely at the feet of the African National Congress national government.
"We all know that crime, and particularly gang and drug crime, weighs heavily on the minds of many communities [in Cape Town]. Places like Mitchells Plain, Bonteheuwel, Nyanga, Langa, Mannenberg, Lavender Hill, and many more are under siege every day," he said at the launch of the DA's "Team 1 SA" in Cape Town, ahead of next year's general elections.

People did not feel safe in their own homes, their streets, their schools, their parks, their shops, and their churches. Gang violence had to be met head-on, and this called for strong leadership, he said.

The fight had to be taken to national government because this was where much of the problem lay. The ANC national government had the power and the responsibility to resource police precincts throughout the Western Cape.

The national government decided how many South African Police Service (SAPS) officers were stationed at which police stations, and who chose, years ago, to disband the specialised gang and drugs units.

"It is the ANC government that releases crime stats every year that show just how badly neglected many of Cape Town’s communities are and still they refuse to come to their rescue."

The national average of police per population was one officer for every 369 residents. In the Western Cape, there was one officer for every 509 residents. In the Cape Town, it was only one officer for every 560 residents.

"An area like Nyanga, with the highest murder rate in the country, should have more police officers than elsewhere, and yet it has way below the national average. This is not an oversight. This is the ANC playing politics with people’s lives," Maimane said.

"I see Cosatu [Congress of South African Trade Unions] has joined the efforts to shut down the Western Cape in protest against crime and gangs. But we see you, Cosatu. We know what you’re doing here. You are deliberately trying to sow confusion around crime in the province by pinning the shortcomings of SAPS and the ANC on the DA and hoping the people fall for it.

"Stop playing politics with people’s lives, Cosatu. If you truly are concerned about the effects of crime here – and I hope you are – then raise it with your own alliance partner, the ANC. Because that’s where the problem lies, and you know it. For once, do the right thing and put pressure on the ANC and SAPS to stop under-resourcing these Cape Town areas as punishment for not choosing an ANC government.

"I also see [Police] Minister Bheki Cele has been making noises about bringing back the specialised units. These noises are nothing new. His predecessor Fikile Mbalula made the same noises. [Former president] Jacob Zuma promised the same thing. Enough empty talk, minister. Just do it," he said.

Under Cape Town mayor-elect Dan Plato the DA would continue to fight for the safety of communities in Cape Town and would be the only party doing so. Thanks to the DA’s efforts there was now an instruction from the Public Service Commission to fill all SAPS vacancies within the next six months.

"And we will not stop there either. We will continue fighting until all Cape Town’s police stations are adequately and fairly staffed. We will continue fighting until police reservist numbers are far higher. We will continue fighting until we have dedicated gang and drug units. And we will continue fighting until the army is sent to these gang hotspots to assist SAPS in its operations," Maimane said.

African News Agency/ANA