During the interview session of his keynote, crime activist Ian Cameron ripped away the plaster concealing the root of SA’s law and order problem – leadership of the SA Police Services has been stuffed with untrained ANC party loyalists with often very dodgy ethics. The unintended consequences of this odious form of cadre deployment has been to shield Big Crime via payola-driven interventions from politically-appointed Generals or simply rank incompetence. Even in Hermanus, where the day before the conference Cameron witnessed 20 abalone smugglers operating untroubled and in broad daylight. – Alec Hogg
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The edited transcript of Alec Hogg’s interview with Ian Cameron at the BizNews 10th birthday conference.
Alec Hogg: You’ve come out again today and said things that are going to make you have a lot more enemies. You’re naming as criminal syndicates organisations such as the ANC and SAPS. Why?
Ian Cameron: It’s nothing I haven’t said before. If more people speak, fewer of us would be at risk. Are they going to arrest all of us? I think not. And that’s what I mean about big corporate as well. You know, BEE and the corporate social responsibility stuff, the points that you need to score is important because it affects the CEO’s pocket. But if all those businesses said, “Stuff the policy, I’m not going to do it anymore,” what are they going to do? Arrest all the CEOs? They can’t. What happened with E-toll? Exactly the same thing. There’s a way that we can change the narrative. Some may say what I say is reckless, but I honestly believe it. I want to support what Herman Mashaba said today about the criminality in the ANC. Parts of what James Lorimer said, I honestly believe, and obviously Rob Hersov, has a way with words, but that political party is beyond repair.
Alec Hogg: The Zondo Commission has laid it all out. But to see the blatancy of what happened yesterday, while you were standing, as you say, looking out on the ocean and twenty guys poaching abalone in broad daylight, shows how far the problem has gone. Could you share more about the Blue Light story with Paul Mashatile’s protection detail? What did the guy do to get pulled over like that?
Ian Cameron: To be honest, I don’t know what they did. I’ve spoken to one of the victims, and they continually said they thought they were being hijacked because there weren’t any sirens on when it happened. But let’s play devil’s advocate; let’s say they did do something wrong. Who, unarmed, in a little blue Polo, would pose a threat to seven blue light vehicles? When you meet the victims, there’s nothing intimidating about them. I honestly don’t have the answer yet. Nothing can justify the way they behaved.
Alec Hogg: Why were they allowed to wear masks in court?
Ian Cameron: The magistrate said that once it gets to trial, they have to be unmasked. But it just feels like a double standard. There’s already evidence linking them to the scene, including the Sanral footage. The idiocy of one of the cops admitting to being at the scene already links them. The police commander and deputy president knew about the incident but did nothing. Just in terms of the police, you’d think something like this would have been reported.
Alec Hogg: There are lots of stories about what happened in New York City when there was rampant crime. The police commissioner introduced the broken windows syndrome, starting at a very low level. Could that be replicated here in South Africa?
Ian Cameron: Absolutely. I think Hermanus has actually done it very well. If you were caught urinating next to the road, you’d be fined. In New York, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani went as strict as fining people for throwing gum on the road. I love that, but our cops themselves don’t behave the right way. It’s the precedent set by their leaders. One day, at the police head office, we had a meeting, and a cop was tasked with carrying the national commissioner’s purse. It said to me, this is a dictator kind of situation.
Alec Hogg: You spoke about a skills audit in the SAPS, and you have mentioned this before. Just for context, how many generals are there in the South African police force, and how many of those would pass a skills audit?
Ian Cameron: How many of them would pass? I don’t know the answer, but from the last figures I saw, we’ve got about a total of 600 brigadiers and generals altogether in the country. That’s way too many chiefs and too few Indians. If you look at national commissioners, for example, it’s clear that many of these are political appointments. The cost to the taxpayer for funding these brigadiers and generals is approximately R2.2 billion a year.
Alec Hogg: So, if I hear you correctly, if you are a loyal supporter of the ANC and you want a comfortable job, you might get deployed as a general in the police services?
Ian Cameron: Indeed. Have you seen how they eat at functions? We may joke about it, but it’s a literal feeding trough. The police claim they don’t have the resources to fight Zama Zamas (illegal miners). That’s a lie. They do have the resources but not the political will. We still have relatively competent national intervention and special task forces. Yet there are issues such as the backlog in DNA testing, which needs to be addressed. In essence, being a general in SAPS seems to be a good retirement plan for a loyal party member.
Alec Hogg: Should you then be pushing for lifestyle audits of these individuals?
Ian Cameron: Certainly. I think blatant signs of a luxurious lifestyle should be investigated. We need to restructure and ensure that there’s a police minister who provides strategic direction, with less influence from unions. The unions have hindered the police in many parts.
Alec Hogg: When you help the most vulnerable in society, victims of violence, what’s their opinion about the world around them? Do they continue to support the ANC despite their performance?
Ian Cameron: It varies from place to place. Many despise the ANC and the government due to distrust. I’ve seen senior officials who simply don’t show up to events, and the human capital side is lost. There’s no compassion. The police lack resources and feel exposed. They don’t even have fuel in some of the most dangerous places in South Africa.
Alec Hogg: That sounds grim, but I gather there are solutions and it can come down to basic management. Is that correct?
Ian Cameron: Absolutely. Basic maintenance issues can be solved with strong leadership and focused priorities. We need to synchronise strategy across the police, the Department of Justice, and Correctional Services. It’s not that difficult.
Alec Hogg: On a positive note, can you tell us about LEAP and here in Hermnus, HPP?
Ian Cameron: With HPP, I havent caught up with them recently but when I did work with them several years ago it was an initiative involving various security groups, including the municipality, security companies, even Neighbourhood Watches. Regarding LEAP, the Law Enforcement Advancement Program, it’s become a force multiplier. The next step might be to give LEAP more investigative power and forensic capacity. Organised crime remains a challenge, but initiatives like LEAP, in conjunction with private security, can move us in the right direction. In July 2021, there were attempts to train communities to act as peace officers, not vigilantes, but those efforts have stalled. That’s the direction we need to move in.
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