Western Cape government declares dispute with Bheki Cele over policing

Western Cape community safety MEC Alan Winde.
Western Cape community safety MEC Alan Winde.
Image: Gallo Images/Adrian de Kock

The Western Cape government has declared a formal dispute with police minister Bheki Cele over a shortage of police in the province which it says he "ignored".

Community safety MEC Alan Winde said on Sunday that he had written to Cele, informing him that the provincial government was “declaring a formal intergovernmental dispute”.

“Our province urgently needs more police officers,” he said, adding that the force was “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," he said in a statement.

"The Western Cape needs urgent additional personnel to enable the Western Cape provincial 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 it had been six months since the provincial government had written to Cele with a list of urgent policing needs and priorities. He claimed that Cele had “failed to respond to our urgent requests”. A letter was hand-delivered to President Cyril Ramaphosa in parliament on the issue in February, he added.

“The minister of police is obliged by the constitution to consult and take account of the specific needs of our province when determining policy. By ignoring these needs and priorities, minister Cele is violating the constitution.”

An investigation by the provincial police ombudsman into police 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”.

Winde said the province had offered to give the SAPS R5m to pay for police reservists to be deployed, as a force multiplier and reduce crime. He said the province had also offered provincial government volunteers to take on administrative duties at police stations, such as commissioners of oath, so that more police officers could be freed up to fight crime.

“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.”

Despite policing being a national government responsibility, Winde said he would fight for policing to be controlled by the province and “not from Pretoria and Luthuli House”.