CT metro cops threaten to take grievances to the streets
Officers say the service is insufficiently resourced in manpower and equipment and morale within the force is low.
CAPE TOWN – Disgruntled officers of Cape Town’s metro police service are threatening industrial action if a barrage of complaints which they say are affecting their health and safety are not addressed soon.
They say the service is insufficiently resourced, in manpower and equipment, and the city’s poorest communities are bearing the brunt of an understaffed service, especially over the festive season.
The 190 complainants are members of newcomer union the Democratic Municipal and Allied Workers’ Union (Demawusa), which is not a recognised bargaining union of the City of Cape Town.
They’ve already approached the South African Local Government Bargaining Council for conciliation where the dispute was not resolved.
A metro police officer who spoke to Eyewitness News on condition of anonymity said officers were burned out and overstretched.
They work 12-hour shifts and mostly only two vehicles are available to patrol an area that includes up to 30 police stations.
The metro police also has an ailing fleet of vehicles that are unsafe to travel in, the union said.
“The lack of these resources have a negative impact not only on the safety of these officers in the execution of their duties but also on the quality of service provided to the community of Cape Town, or in this instance, the lack of service to the majority of the community of Cape Town,” says Demawusa’s metro regional secretary Martin Rabie.
The city’s mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith says the group’s concerns were well-documented, but are the result of constrained budgets over the years.
“It is true that vehicles are short across the board. It is also something that we have publicly acknowledged in the Integrated Development Plan where it explicitly states having to grow the capital budget for equipment and that’s why every year we push for as many vehicles as possible,” he says.
In the absence of sufficient funding, the city’s metro police service had sought to bolster its force with volunteers, he says.
The city’s metro police service is the only one in the country with a reservist unit.
“The resources growth, when we couldn’t do it through additional budget which wasn’t forthcoming, we tried to do it through rent-a-cop and volunteers,” Smith says.
The union believes that money spent on technology designed to track the movements of officers and cut down on response times could be better spent on improving resources.
“In an ideal well-resourced police service we would probably support this initiative but how do you track and utilise resources which are non-existent? How do you cut down response times when there is only one vehicle operational on a shift?” says Rabie.
The city’s executive director for safety and security Richard Bosman says the city can not afford to give each officer a vehicle to go home in and, as a result of attacks on police officers, it was also not safe.
“We insist on officers working in teams so they can protect each other and assist each other. We have vehicle replacements on an annual basis and that is spread across the entire service.”
As an essential service, Bosman says it is illegal for metro police to strike.
“If they do strike and they affect service delivery the consequences could be the same as what happened in 2008 when there were mass dismissals.”
The union says morale within the force is low, exacerbated by the fact that their years of service are not recognised in determining their rank.