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The inadequate security measures that led to last month’s break-in at the Hawks Head offices has resuscitated the Committee’s call for the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI/Hawks) to have its own budget.

According to Committee Chairperson, Mr Francois Beukman, the Committee had recommended in its 2016/17 Budget Review and Recommendations Report that the Hawks should have their own budget vote so they can be able to do their work effectively and stop relying on the South African Police Service (SAPS) budget.  

This as the Committee received a report on the circumstances surrounding the burglary from the Acting Hawks Head, Let-Gen Yolisa Matakata, at the provincial offices of the South African Police Service in Durban on Friday, 4 August 2017.

Lt-Gen Matakata’s report revealed that that burglary could have been avoided if the Hawks had been given the type of security they have been requesting for a couple of years now. This includes ensuring that the Hawks’ offices have specific security features matching the kind of work they do. However, some of the things the Hawks would like to have are dependent on the budget of the South African Police Service and the Department of Public Works (DPW).

Despite Lt-Gen Matakata telling that the only information that was stolen was financial performance, trips undertaken and cellphone data of the Hawks members and that information about ongoing investigations and related details was spared, the Committee Chairperson said information containing cellphone details of Hawks members could also compromise the ongoing investigations as well as the lives of those members. As such, those cellphone numbers and details needed to be replaced as soon as possible.

Mr Beukman advised the Hawks to inform the Committee, should they experience any challenges from SAPS with the replacement of such cellphone information.

Lt-Gen Matakata further told the Committee that the break-in was carried out by three people who appeared to have come through a railway fence behind the offices – and seem to have been aware of the surveillance cameras in the Hawks offices, because they were unable to avoid them.

On the issue of dependency on DPW for suitable security features, Mr Jerome Maake, a member of the Committee, said that has to change because there is a huge likelihood that DPW officials have no expertise on how best to instal security features necessary for a building that is dealing with sensitive information such as the Hawks.

The Hawks also briefed the Committee about their role in addressing the politically motivated killings in KwaZulu-Natal. They told the Committee that they are investigating 38 cases, involving murder, attempted murder and intimidation. They however, said they have not been able to make any arrests, but remain confident of a breakthrough. They highlighted the unwillingness of witnesses to come forward, but said their operation will soon yield results.

This briefing took place on the last and fifth day of the Committee’s visit to KwaZulu-Natal where it had set out to assess the province’s state of policing. The Committee spent two days focusing on rural policing, and learnt with shock the inadequate support given to rural police stations, in particular vehicles, communication tools and human resources. The Committee visited Richards Bay, Hlabisa and KwaNongoma police stations and found that the stations operate with less than 50% of the vehicles they are meant to have. The other vehicles are said to have been sent for fixing at SAPS’s garages and other service providers for more than a year, in other instances.

The same concern of shortages of resources was picked up at the province’s specialised units in Pietermaritzburg on the third day of the oversight, Wednesday 2 August 2017. The Public Order Policing (PoPs) and Tactical Response Team told the Committee that they too operate with few cars and Nyalas. PoPs also had a shortage of rubber bullets.

It was at this Wednesday’s meeting that the Committee resolved to call the Acting National Police Commissioner, Lt-Gen Lesetja Mothiba, to an urgent meeting that was to be held on Thursday 3 August 2017. The purpose was for Lt-Gen Mothiba to respond to these challenges and tell the Committee how his management intends to sort out these challenges. Thursday came and Lt-Gen Mothiba did not come, instead he called the Chairperson and said he was in a Cabinet lekgotla (meeting) and requested the meeting to be moved to Friday, 4 August and confirmed his attendance. Unfortunately, Friday came too and the Acting National Commissioner did not pitch and sent a text message to the Chairperson, saying he had to attend an urgent meeting of some task team. Needless to say, Committee members did not take kindly to what they described as “utter disregard of parliamentary process by Lt-Gen Lesetja”.

According to Mr Phillip Mhlongo, a member of the Committee, what the Acting Commissioner did suggests that he does not care about the number of people that get killed in KwaZulu-Natal because of police challenges. He said it was pointless for the Committee to continue blaming police commanders and cluster commanders because some of the decisions are taken at the level of the accounting officer. Mr Mhlongo was particularly referring to the more than 90 unsolved murder cases in the notorious Gleblends Hostel in uMlazi.

On Thursday, 3 August, the Committee was told that the Gleblends situation was being investigated by a provincial task team, but was not pleased with the results and would have wanted the Acting Commissioner to also respond to some of the issues. The other issue that concerned the Committee was the challenges faced by the Chatsworth police in dealing with drug lords and drug peddlers.

The non-attendance by the Acting Commissioner will be escalated to the Minister of Police, Mr Fikile Mbalula, in a letter to be written by the Chairperson.

The Committee Chairperson closed the matter by saying the Acting Commissioner will have to appear before the Committee on 16 April 2017.

Allegations that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) is unwilling to investigate police involvement in some of the politically motivated violence, as alleged by some of the witnesses during the Moerane Commission of Inquiry probing political killings in KwaZulu-Natal, will be probed when the IPID appears before the Committee in few weeks to come.

On Friday, 4 August, the Committee also visited Gleblends Hostel, where it said the situation requires a multi-pronged and integrated process involving the province, eThekwini Municipality and other stakeholders, as it is more than just a policing issue. Meanwhile, the Committee stressed the importance of the SAPS doing its best to stop violent incidents. It cited an effective intelligence-driven operation as one such mechanism.

By Temba Gubula

4 August 2017