File photo: African News Agency (ANA)

CAPE TOWN - The Western Cape government has declared a formal dispute with Police Minister Bheki Cele over police resources allocated to the province, Democratic Alliance Western Cape premier candidate Alan Winde said on Sunday.

"In my capacity as Western Cape MEC of community safety, and as authorised by the Western Cape cabinet, I have written to the national Minister of Police Bheki Cele to notify him that the Western Cape government is declaring a formal intergovernmental dispute with the police minister," Winde said.

It was now six months since the Western Cape government first wrote to Cele with a list of urgent policing needs and priorities for the province, which Cele had ignored. He had failed to respond to the urgent requests, even after a follow-up letter in December, and hand delivering the letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa in person in parliament in February, he said.

Cele was obliged by the Constitution to consult and take account of the specific needs of the province when determining policy. By ignoring these needs and priorities, Cele was violating the Constitution.

"Our province urgently needs more police officers. Western Cape police is dramatically under resourced compared to other provinces. While one officer must protect 375 people on average nationally, in the Western Cape, the ratio is 1:509. It makes me angry that the national ANC government gives our province fewer resources to fight crime than other provinces.

"The Western Cape needs urgent additional personnel to enable the Western Cape provincial [police] commissioner to take steps to address gang violence and the appalling murder rate, as well as to protect learners and schools, public transport, and state infrastructure such as ambulances," Winde said.

The Western Cape provincial police ombudsman’s investigation into South African Police Service (SAPS) reservists concluded that “there has been a significant decrease in the number of active police reservists between 2008 and 2018” and that “[t]he decrease in the total number of reservists available over weekends is directly impacting on the efficiency of the SAPS in the Western Cape to reduce the levels of reporting crime”.

"As a result of this, and to assist SAPS, we offered to give SAPS R5 million to pay for police reservists to be deployed in the province, to act as a force multiplier and reduce crime," Winde said.

The Western Cape further offered provincial government volunteers to take on administrative duties at SAPS stations, such as commissioners of oaths, so that more police officers were freed up to fight crime on patrol.

"But the minister has ignored us and has not responded to our province’s urgent policing needs and priorities and did not respond to these offers," he said.

The Western Cape government was left with no choice other than to declare formally that the minister had:
- Failed or refused to respond to the communication of the policing needs and priorities of this province as communicated to him in October 2018;
- Failed or refused to address the policing needs and priorities of this province in determining national policing policy; and
- Failed to respond to the proactive offers of assistance and funding made by the Western Cape government.

Cele was now obliged by section 41 of the Intergovernmental Relations Framework Act to meet urgently with the Western Cape government to respond to and address these failures.

"Crime is a responsibility of the national government and the SAPS is controlled from the national government in Tshwane. When we ask for more police officers the ANC government looks away, and when we ask for the army to be sent in to defeat gangs the ANC government says no. We are sick of the national government refusing to hear our cry for help," Winde said.

"This is why I will fight for policing to be controlled by the province and not from Pretoria and Luthuli House. The DA will always put the welfare of our people first and will never compromise their safety for political gain. While the national government, which is mandated by the Constitution to protect all South Africans, continues to fail in its duty to keep us safe the Western Cape government is not standing idly by," Winde said.

African News Agency (ANA)