Ivo Vegter is at his satirical best in this amusing article chronicling the comedic launch and subsequent ridicule of Gauteng Premier, Panyaza Lesufi’s new crime prevention force known as the Crime Prevention Wardens (CPWs). The first batch of over 3,000 CPWs have already been appointed under section 334 of the Criminal Procedure Act, giving them broad powers of arrest and evidence-gathering. The new force has not yet received firearm training and was deployed without a command centre. Photographs circulated on social media of the CPWs at a parade, and they were described as “dumpy and ill-disciplined.” Lesufi has been accused of copying the Western Cape Premier Alan Winde’s Law Enforcement Advancement Programme, which has been successful in reducing crime in Cape Town’s roughest suburbs. The creation of CPWs has led to calls for devolution of policing to the provinces.
Keystone Kops hit the streets of Gauteng
By Ivo Vegter*
Panyaza Lesufi, the Premier of Gauteng, has taken a leaf out of Western Cape Premier Alan Winde’s book with his provincial Crime Prevention Wardens.
With only three months of training, which did not include firearm training, one may be forgiven for being a little skeptical of Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi’s version of a provincial crime prevention force.
The first three-plus thousand so-called ‘Crime Prevention Wardens’ (CPWs) were the supporting cast in what appeared to be a premature ‘pass out’ parade glorifying the redoubtable leading man, Panyaza Lesufi. One may also be forgiven for harbouring the impression that the criminal underworld of Gauteng isn’t quaking in its collective boots.
These CPWs have been appointed under section 334 of the Criminal Procedure Act, which permits the appointment of so-called ‘peace officers’. These officers, according to sections 40 and 41 of the Act, are bestowed with powers similar to those of real police officers, including broad powers of arrest and evidence-gathering.
The peace officers are employed directly by the Gauteng Provincial Government, although they will work closely with members of the South African Police Service.
It is, of course, impossible for an outsider to assess their actual competence, although one may surmise that a mere three months devoted to physical fitness, police procedures, arresting suspects, handling evidence, and learning selected bits of relevant law has not turned them into formidable experts on policing.
Only physical fitness and discipline can be assessed in a parade, and Lesufi’s raw recruits did not impress on either count.
Embarrassing photographs circulated on social media (faces obscured to protect privacy; it isn’t who is dumpy and ill-disciplined that matters, just that some of them are dumpy and ill-disciplined).
Lesufi described the wardens as ‘dynamic and physically adept’. The cruel mob described them as teletubbies. It isn’t hard to see why:
The first group was to be deployed to crime hotspots by 1 May.
The Gauteng Traffic Police Spokesperson who reportedly trained them, Sello Maremane, promised Gauteng residents that the crime prevention wardens will, in future, receive firearm training, and will, in future, be issued with firearms, because, he said, ‘I cannot expect my crime prevention wardens to go out there while they are not armed’.
So, it is a bit of a mystery how exactly they were deployed this week not armed, but armed.
They also won’t have a command centre. And Maremane said: ‘We are not reckless by releasing them without the command centre.’
So, it’s also a mystery how they were deployed with, and without, a command centre.
An elaborate crime surveillance network, piggybacking on the useless e-toll gantries and extending to CCTV cameras and even ‘panic buttons’ for residents, also does not yet exist.
At least some of the newly-minted but hopelessly under-equipped CPWs were issued with fancy BMW 3-Series sedans, so they can drive around in style while they wait for their guns, their surveillance tools and their command centre.
The cheapest such vehicle retails for over three quarters of a million rand, but if you want a bit of get-up-and-go, you’ll pay closer to a million.
The CPWs have been warned not to take bribes. If we assume that the R450 million budget for the whole affair is spent exclusively on salaries, each CPW will earn less than R10 000 per month. Realistically, after subtracting the fleet of luxury German automobiles, they’ll earn perhaps half that.
Surely, they’ll obey a stern warning from Lesufi not to be corrupted.
The redoubtable Panyaza Lesufi stole the idea of a devolved police force subsidiary to the national SAPS from his counterpart in the Western Cape, Alan Winde.
In 2020, Winde launched the Law Enforcement Advancement Programme (LEAP), which the City of Cape Town funds jointly with the Western Cape Provincial Government, in line with the Western Cape Safety Plan.
It has been a remarkable success, with LEAP officers now deployed in the roughest of Cape Town’s townships and suburbs, including Delft, Gugulethu, Harare, Khayelitsha (Site B policing precinct), Kraaifontein, Mfuleni, Mitchells Plain, Nyanga, Philippi East, Samora Machel, Atlantis, Bishop Lavis, Hanover Park, Lavender Hill, Steenberg, and Grassy Park.
In March 2023 alone, this force effected over 1 200 arrests.
By contrast with Lesufi’s green-overalled wardens, however, the LEAP officers actually look the part:
Not a beer belly among them.
Lesufi’s Keystone Kops, however, does make things a little awkward for South Africa’s Top Kop, Bheki Cele.
The Democratic Alliance government in the Western Province and the City of Cape Town have for years now been calling for the devolution of policing to the provinces.
This reflects a widespread acknowledgement that the SAPS, particularly in the Western Cape, has fallen under the control of the very criminals it is supposed to combat.
The Institute for Security Studies, too, has extensively documented the failures of the SAPS, and attributes those failures largely to the top management of the police, up to and including the Police Minister, Cele.
The establishment of the LEAP force, then, goes as far as the City and Province can legally go towards improving the policing of its communities, and is a model for devolution for the remainder of the Western Cape and the other provinces.
Cele has vehemently resisted the notion of devolving policing to the provinces or cities, saying: ‘The rogue conduct by certain Metros of creating parallel structures of law enforcement aimed at undermining the constitution cannot be left unchallenged.’
He proceeds to claim, falsely, that Cape Town’s ‘parallel structures of law enforcement’ are ‘deployed to affluent areas with less crime, to the detriment of townships that are known to be the biggest contributors of crime in the Western Cape’.
He has maintained these falsehoods in order to sketch a fictional narrative of a racist government, and the Democratic Alliance has had to repeatedly challenge them.
In this context, Lesufi’s Pride can be viewed as a tacit admission, by a senior ANC politician, that all is not well with Bheki Cele’s SAPS, and that provinces and cities ought to take matters into their own hands, to the extent that the law permits.
All levity aside, then, and grave misgivings too, one hopes that the Gauteng Crime Prevention Wardens will, with time, training, and experience, become as successful as the Cape Town Law Enforcement Advancement Programme officers upon which they are modelled.
The SAPS is broken, from the top down. Like the City of Cape Town, Gauteng residents deserve competent, effective, devolved policing too.
*Ivo Vegter is a freelance journalist, columnist and speaker who loves debunking myths and misconceptions, and addresses topics from the perspective of individual liberty and free markets. Follow him on Twitter, @IvoVegter.
This article was first published by Daily Friend and is republished with permission
The views of the writer are not necessarily the views of the Daily Friend or the IRR
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