A SAPS unit on a raid in the Western Cape. Many CPFs say aspects of the provincial constitution hinder their ability to function and that certain organisations are being “infiltrated” by criminal entities. Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - While politicians and SAPS management are grappling to bring crime under control in the Western Cape, Community Policing Forums (CPFs) are facing challenges some claim could collapse the civic bodies.

Annual general meetings that will see the election of new CPF leadership at station level and cluster level are expected to get under way between September and December.

The institutions were established to form co-operative relationships between the police and the community, as well as play an oversight role in the provincial constitution.

But many CPFs say aspects of the provincial constitution hinder their ability to function and that certain organisations are being “infiltrated” by criminal entities.

This year alone, several key CPF leaders have either been suspended or expelled on a number of allegations that include bringing the organisation into disrepute by speaking to the media, at times due to recommendations from the very people they are meant to be overseeing

This past Sunday, the provincial CPF board threatened to boycott the ongoing two-day crime summit organised by SAPS in Paarl if they did not get an urgent meeting with police management and MEC of Community Safety Albert Fritz, to reverse the expulsion of the provincial chairperson and secretary, as well as a clear plan to deal with violent crime in the province.

Elsies River CPF deputy chairperson Imraahn Mukaddam, who was suspended last week, said amending the constitution should be a priority before the AGM.

“The most important task that the CPF board will have to do before we can go through (with) an AGM is to amend the constitution. There are many anomalies. For instance, the very people we supposedly have oversight over are the same people who can discipline us for bringing them into disrepute. There are also clauses like speaking to the media without a mandate which are an offence,” he added.

“We are governed by a constitution that is very outdated and makes it difficult to negotiate as equal partners on behalf of communities and allows for abuse. For example, a station commander can recommend that a chairperson of a CPF be suspended or expelled because they might have certain queries about his conduct or even corruption at their station. This needs to be addressed, otherwise we will be handing over to the CPF and its board the same can of worms.”

Mukaddam said another contentious issue was that political parties were allowed to submit candidates for CPFs, so they come in on a political mandate but are expected to be apolitical once they are on the inside.

“You’ll find a delegate from the ANC, DA or EFF and maybe the three of them are the top positions and you have communities being held ransom to political agendas.

“Challenges at SAPS management level do not help either, for example for this five-year term that I have served, in the first two years we’ve probably had about four or five station managers until the appointment of a permanent one. The political shenanigans within the police structures and the playing of musical chairs with station commanders and cluster commanders causes a lot of problems at management level that CPFs find difficult to get continuity as well.”

Khayelitsha Cluster chairperson Francina Lukas, who also acted as provincial board chairperson, said the expulsions were reserved following a meeting on Thursday.

“The suspensions and expulsions have been lifted because there are serious flaws in that constitution.

“CPFs are voluntary from the community, so our argument was that because we are all voluntary, SAPS cannot suspend them,” she says.

“Currently there is a national community policing policy that will dictate how CPFs should function and that resides under the national office.

“All CPFs in the country must be aligned and be subjected to that policy.

“The other challenge is the issue of equal partnership with the police, because we have a role to ensure that services are being rendered.

“How can you be dependent on the very people you are meant to monitor?” Lukas said.

She said there was policy uncertainty. “I don’t know now with the flaws in the Western Cape constitution. We have tried for many years to have it reviewed and I don’t know what impact that will have on the upcoming AGM, which is stipulated in the constitution. We will talk about that at the summit,” she said.

But for veteran community leader Hanif Loonat, who was also suspended this year from his role as Mitchells Plain cluster chairperson, the CPF model should be scrapped altogether.

“CPFs have passed their sell-by date. We need to come up with a new formula. The minister needs to look at a new formation in terms of how we go about forming public participation in combating crime,” he said.

“They have been infiltrated by gangsters and criminals and with that you will never win the battle.

“This was the worst CPF period we have had. CPFs have been ineffective, barring a few, and are being used for political gains.

“The system is corrupt and I believe we will not win this battle if we continue with the present process of CPFs which are no longer what they used to be,” Loonat said.

Weekend Argus