Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Eastern Cape cops ‘the worst in country’

THE government has acknowledged that the Eastern Cape had the worst policing in the country.

Portfolio committee chairperson on safety and security Maggie Sotyu made the statement at a public hearing on a review of the criminal justice system yesterday in Mthatha.

“The fact that I am doing oversight on police in all nine provinces … most of the places we visited we discovered that there is no satisfactory service delivery in the Eastern Cape,” Sotyu said.

So disillusioned was Sotyu with the state of policing in the province, she suggested provincial commissioner Mpumelelo Landu attend today’s hearing in Port Elizabeth to explain why the situation was so bad.

When contacted yesterday, Landu declined to comment on Sotyu’s remarks: “I was not there so I cannot be in a position to comment on that,” Landu said.

But he did say that all police officers were expected to perform their duties to the best of their abilities and anyone found “shortchanging” the service would be prosecuted. Sotyu said in 2006, when they embarked on the restructuring of the police service, “the Eastern Cape was the poorest performing province” when it came to the outcome of that restructuring.

A report was completed last December which showed the problems had persisted, she said. Sotyu, with the agreement of hundreds at the hearing, said:

· Police stations were not performing the way they should ;
· The capacity of station commissioners was questionable;

· Stations were crippled by absenteeism;
· Response times of police ranged between three and four hours, if there was any response at all;
· Some policemen in the province thought they were politicians, refusing to help members of rival parties;
· Some stations had few, if any, vehicles; and
· Some police were corrupt and accepted bribes.

Sotyu said the problems seemed to exist throughout the province. She said while the same situation used to prevail in other parts of the country, these areas had improved significantly in the last five or six years. “Unfortunately, with the Eastern Cape you still get those instances … I get calls mainly from the Eastern Cape … Police are not visible,” Sotyu said.

One of the key issues discussed by the public was the need to review the rights enjoyed by criminals. The feeling was that criminals were afforded more rights than victims. S ome called for the reintroduction of the death penalty.

Once hearings have been completed around the country the portfolio committees on justice and constitutional development, and safety and security will report to Parliament, their respective ministers and the entire criminal justice cluster.

Sotyu said the feedback could form part of new legislation once the review of the criminal justice system is completed.

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