/ 17 May 2022

Police resources might further drop in Nyanga, former ‘murder capital’ of SA

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Residents fetch water at a communal tap in Nyanga. (Photo by Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images)

The citizen to policing ratio in Nyanga, Western Cape, is likely to see a further drop, according to Democratic Alliance spokesperson on police, Andrew Whitfield, who made the comment after visiting the densely populated township’s police station on Monday. 

“Provincial government and the City of Cape Town cannot plug the gap for national government’s responsibility, which is to deploy more [police],” Whitfield told Mail & Guardian outside Nyanga police station. 

The station should have 353 staff members — the fixed establishment — but employees currently number 330.  

Following a brief oversight visit to the station Whitfield, together with the Western Cape’s interim provincial leader, Tertuis Simmers, were told by the SAPS to “anticipate the new fixed establishment may even decline. Basically, the citizen to policing ratio is likely to move in the wrong direction, which is really concerning”. 

The provincial government visited the police station after the most recent crime statistics reflected a drop in the murder rate in the area — something the local government attributes to the close working relationship between the SAPS, the province’s Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (Leap) and the City of Cape Town. 

The Western Cape currently has 1 100 Leap officers, with 70 deployed across Nyanga. 

Born out of the Western Cape Safety Plan in 2019, Leap is a joint initiative between the City of Cape Town’s safety and security directorate and the provincial government. The Western Cape Safety Plan is aimed at halving the murder rate in the province by 2029. 

For this reason, Leap officers are additional law enforcers whose operational concept includes visible enforcement presence, relationship-building with residents, businesses and community structures, information-gathering on crime patterns and supplementing support for the SAPS and metro police.

Said Whitfield: We need more boots on the ground. We are glad that Nyanga is no longer the murder capital, but somewhere else is, and we need to make sure our resources are distributed accordingly to these violent crime areas”.

In 2018, Nyanga recorded 308 murders. The following year, the number was 289 — the highest in the country. The surrounding areas of Delft and Khayelitsha also experienced high incidence of murder.  

However, over a period of four years, the number of recorded murders in the township decreased by 34%.  In the third quarter of 2021/22, 131 murders were reported. 

Noteworthy is that Nyanga police station previously serviced the adjacent community of Samora Machel. But in December 2018, Samora Machel received its own police station, separating it from the Nyanga station and resulting in fewer crimes being reported at the latter.    

Asked about the impact of the new station on murder statistics, DA national spokesperson and constituency head Siviwe Gwarube said it had allowed for more resources “and boots on the ground for a smaller area” as the catchment area was previously “very big”. 

Nyanga’s station commander, Brigadier Vuyisile Ncata, told M&G that all serious and violent crimes — including murder, car hijacking, robbery, business robbery, house robbery and rape — had decreased.  

He said that gang-related extortion and killings accompanying this, however, remained a problem. 

“That one is not an easy one. The victims are not cooperating with law enforcement. Those that are extorted do not open cases for obvious reasons, like they are scared, but that is something we are working on. Personally, I have been engaging with them to not be scared, we need to stop this,” said Ncata. 

“The reason people are fighting and killing one another in numbers is because of township gangs who are fighting over extortion money. Myself and my management are embarking on a new approach and we are hoping and praying that it would yield good results.”

Asked about the new approach, Ncata responded: “We want to find the perpetrators. We want to know when they are collecting [extortion money].” 

The focus was now on those doing the extorting, he said, instead of those being extorted. “We are motivating and encouraging the community to bring us information.”

Of the oversight visit, Whitfield said: “There is a lot of work that still needs to be done. But what was encouraging was that Brigadier Ncata indicated that this partnership he has built with the Leap programme, neighbourhood watches, CPF (community policing forums) and SAPS is demonstrating it is a successful solution to combating crime.”

Residents who live in close proximity to the police station had mixed reactions to the notion of a decrease in crime. The number of murders may have lessened, they told M&G, but other crimes still had an effect on their daily lives and routines. 

Anda Mpiliswana, who helps her mother sell food on the roadside, agreed that murders had decreased, but that “robberies are the same when travelling by bus early in the mornings. It is not safe”. 

Another vendor, who asked not to be named, said she was unable to comment on experiencing a reduction in crime, but that she still closed her business before 7pm to make sure she was back home before dark. 

A group of young men who also asked not to be named, simply said: “Crime is a common thing, we live with it.”