The shortage of police officers and outdated municipal by-laws were hindering law enforcement in Alexandra township, the South African Human Rights Commission’s (SAHRC) Alexandra inquiry heard yesterday.
Testifying before the commission, the South African Police Service (SAPS) national commissioner Lieutenant-General Khehla Sitole said there were not enough members in the police force to ensure effective policing.
“Some of the by-laws are outdated, therefore there are a lot of grey areas that the by-laws don’t talk to. There must be a review of the by-laws,” said Sitole.
The inquiry, which is a joint initiative between the SAHRC and the office of the public protector, was set up following weeks of disruptive service delivery protests earlier this year, and was aimed at investigating alleged corruption and possible human rights violations in the township.
It also looked into allegations of corruption in the renewal project, launched in 2001 to develop the township.
Sitole said there was a shortage of 62,000 police officers in the country, which was equivalent to one police officer for every 383 people.
“If policing is to be normal in South Africa we need 62,000 members to close that gap,” he said.
Sitole said there were currently 193,000 police officers and it was not possible for them to cover all the crime spots in the country unless they invested more money into technology.
He said the major challenges facing law enforcement officers in Alexandra were illegal occupation of land, influx of illegal immigrants, vandalism of infrastructure, land evictions and the illegal connections of electricity.
When asked by the commission whether the police were sufficiently equipped to deal with law enforcement in Alexandra, Sitole said: “Yes we are sufficiently equipped but what we are not sufficiently equipped to deal with is the root causes.”
The root causes were the socio-economic conditions in Alexandra and their impact on crime.
He said the most prevalent crimes there were murder, hijacking and robbery which were all contact crimes that sent shock waves throughout the township.
Also testifying before the commission was the Alexandra police station commander, who said that the police had made a number of positive steps during Operation Okae Molao (where is the law?).
The station commander said they had made a number of drug-related arrests, closed shebeens and arrested several undocumented people.
“Operation Okae Molao was very successful and we are looking forward to having more operations,” he said.