Cachalia melds SAPS, private sector in crime fight

STRATEGISTS: Gauteng community safety MEC Firoz Cachalia, right, with members of the SAPS senior management team. Pic. Tsheko Kabasia. 13/10/05. © Sunday World.
STRATEGISTS: Gauteng community safety MEC Firoz Cachalia, right, with members of the SAPS senior management team. Pic. Tsheko Kabasia. 13/10/05. © Sunday World.

Vuyo Mvoko

Vuyo Mvoko

"Please Sir, we want more," pleaded Sowetan in an editorial recently.

This, of course, was after Gauteng community safety MEC Firoz Cachalia gave an encouraging half-year report- back on the provincial government's efforts to deal with crime.

There had been a drop in property crime, murder, hijackings and residential robberies. While increases were recorded in categories such as business robberies, each time police arrested suspects in connection with these crimes, they were able to glean more information about criminals' methods, accomplices and networks.

"While we have a long way to go,signs are that the hard work our communities and police are putting in to address crime is starting to make a difference," he said.

Added Cachalia: "Statistics mean very little for people who have been victims of serious and violent crimes.

"As long as people experience incidents of horrific brutality or the threat of violence in their homes or in our public spaces, improvements in crime patterns provide little comfort."

To juxtapose humility and pride - as Cachalia managed to do with his report - is not an easy feat to achieve. It is an accomplishment that requires honesty and acknowledgment, among other virtues.

Yes, politicians can be vain and vague. Like every one else they make mistakes, and, as with most of us, they are loathe to admit their faults.

However, in this instance, one couldn't have faltered Cachalia - as Sowetan correctly pointed out - when the facts spoke for themselves.

But what did Cachalia do differently that Sowetan is asking him to do more of?

A few months ago I found myself spending a great deal of time with Cachalia.

At that time arguments had reached fever pitch on whether President Thabo Mbeki was showing leadership in the fight against crime.

To some the government's claims that certain categories of crime were being cut or that they were stabilising was a misnomer.

Debate raged about whether the government should release crime statistics every five minutes or every year.

I heard Cachalia privately expressing concern about the politicisation of crime.

His commitment to finding solutions had him holding meetings with the provincial police leadership to pool their ideas on what could be done to curb crime.

During one of those meetings in Rosebank I saw equally committed police officers pouring their hearts out as they sought to find practical solutions to this problem.

National Police Commissioner, Jackie Selebi had just launched Operation Trio - so named because its primary objective was to reduce three violent crimes - residential robberies, business robberies and vehicle hijackings.

To add impetus to this operation, 25 police stations that recorded high levels of the three crimes were grouped together in five clusters, each consisting of five stations.

The stations worked together to identify criminal gangs operating across precincts and deployed their resources accordingly.

They also received additional personnel and vehicles to ensure that they had sufficient capacity to proactively tackle the perpetrators of these crimes in their jurisdiction.

Alongside Operation Trio the police initiated a series of high density policing interventions called Flood and Flush operations to disrupt criminal activity in various locations where crime had increased.

Cachalia invited police officers, who had walked that extra mile beyond their call of duty, to a party to personally thank them for their efforts.

The officers included Superintendent Piet Byleveld, Constable Rendani Mulovhedzi and Detective Amos Maneta, and a number of others who had risked their lives to investigate and apprehend some of the province's notorious offenders.

It was a simple gesture, also attended by the officers' spouses as well as the private sector.

Cachalia handed over breakaway packages to the officers, which included spending time with their families at a holiday resort, courtesy of private sector partners, Forever Resorts and Sun International.

The companies' generosity underscored the importance of private sector involvement in the battle against crime.

But policing alone is not enough. This is why Cachalia launched the Take Charge Campaign in Kliptown in February.

Perhaps Sowetan' s editors will not have to ask Cachalia for more again because there will indeed be more arrests and convictions.

l Mvoko is a journalist currently embedded with the Take Charge Campaign.