by Melinda Hattingh MPL – DA Northern Cape Spokesperson of Transport, Safety & Liaison
Date: 29 June 2017
Note to editors: The following speech was delivered in the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature today by the Democratic Alliance’s Provincial Spokesperson on Transport, Safety and Liaison, Melinda Hattingh MPL, during the debate on the budget of the Northern Cape Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison.
Members of this House
The Northern Cape Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison is tasked with the important job of ensuring that its citizens are safe – safe at work, safe in play and safe on the province’s roads.
While this Department has no control over the day-to-day operations of the police, it does play a crucial role in safety through police oversight and community-driven crime prevention programmes.
When considering the state of crime in the province, we should therefore not only scrutinise the performance of SAPS but also the performance of this Department.
Hon. Speaker, the Northern Cape is faced with a worsening crime situation.
The latest crime stats point to an increase in contact crimes and property-related crimes that were previously not a problem in our more rural province.
Most notable, however, has been the drastic increase in sexual offences, which rose by 8,9% from 1 578 incidents in 2014/2015 to 1 719 incidents in 2015/2016.
Hon. Speaker, an increase in sexual offences speaks largely to the worsening scourge of violence against women and children which has reached unprecedented levels across the whole of South Africa.
In this regard, the DA welcomes the collaborative 30-day intensive programme between Safety and the Social Development Department, to address such violence.
A more long-term and strategic approach, however, is also necessary.
The DA is, therefore, concerned by the Department’s delay in finalising the review of the Crime Prevention Strategy 2012-2015.
A two-year gap in strategy is regressive, to say the least. It places the Department in limbo and risks wasting limited resources on ineffective and outdated programmes.
Hon. Speaker, issues pertaining to safety are forever changing. Initiatives that help to keep people out of harm’s way, therefore, need to be dynamic and reorganised on an ongoing basis in order to prove effective.
We, therefore, call on this Department to speed up the finalisation of the Northern Cape Crime Prevention Strategy 2017-2020, specifically for the sake of our women and children.
Also, with regards to the safety of our children, we further call on provincial government to speed up the rationalisation of learner transport.
Hon. Speaker, learner transport is viewed by both this Department and the Department of Education, as a liability for which no department actually wants to take responsibility.
More than anything else, this is a policy and funding related dilemma which will not merely be resolved through a game of ping pong between departments.
Challenges within this programme will continue until the crux of the matter, namely the tariff structure, is dealt with once and for all.
Hon. Speaker, it simply cannot be that the Northern Cape is the only province in the entire country that is paying service providers, who are transporting our learners to and from school, for a single trip.
Given the dire lack of both the prioritisation and management of learner transport, on both an interdepartmental as well as a provincial level, it is little wonder that learner transport services are regularly interrupted by operators who choose to work only four days or less per week.
Hon. Speaker, learner transport is a crisis waiting to happen, and it cannot wait until next year to be resolved.
The provision of safe transport of learners to school and back, by reliable and quality service providers, needs attention now, otherwise, this government risks facing another schooling catastrophe, like the JTG crisis of 2012.
Hon. Speaker, safety on our roads extends beyond learner transport.
Figures released by the Road Traffic Management Corporation indicate that a total of 409 people died on the Northern Cape’s roads last year.
According to the Automobile Association, this is cause for concern as it not only indicates that awareness campaigns and education initiatives are not effective and that driver attitudes are getting worse, but it also shows that law enforcement is not making the impact that it should.
This is not surprising considering that not all of the province’s four weighbridges are fully functional. The weighbridge in Springbok is closed due to construction and Kimberley weighbridge only operates at random times, as opposed to the required eight hours per day. Hon. Speaker, weighbridges must be optimally utilised in order to assist the Roads & Public Works Department to preserve our road network.
This is not surprising considering that the Department only offers a “nine to five traffic service” on weekdays only, as opposed to a 24/7 traffic service, seven days of the week.
This is also not surprising given that the Department only employs about 100 traffic officers across the entire province, some of whom are based at driver testing stations.
Hon. Speaker, the Department conceded that a study conducted by Arrive Alive some years ago, suggests that the Northern Cape needs approximately 500 traffic officers to properly police the province’s road network.
Not only is the Department a long way off from this target, but it also could not make provision to increase capacity by absorbing some of the 500 traffic officers who are currently in training in South Africa.
At the same time, targets for key law enforcement indicators remain the same as previous years. Yet, this Department hopes to achieve improved results without improving its game plan.
This is wishful thinking.
The DA cannot support a budget based on delusions and a budget that justifies unacceptable delays in key performance areas.
Melinda Hattingh MPL
DA Northern Cape Spokesperson of Transport, Safety & Liaison
082 494 6648
Shelley De Witt
082 847 1387