South Africa: Civil Activist Claims Anti-Gang Unit Doesn't Have a Proper Budget

The Western Cape's Anti-Gang Unit (AGU) has not been allocated a budget, a community activist has claimed.

Six of the unit's members were shot earlier this month in a botched tracing operation.

In an email to national police commissioner Lieutenant General Khehla Sitole this week, in which Minister of Police Bheki Cele was CCed, Colin Arendse claimed he learnt that the AGU had been operating without a budget since its inception in November last year.

He said this was because Sitole and those operating under his command had not allocated a personnel and salary sub system (Persap) number to the unit.

According to a technical indicators SA Police Service (SAPS) document, Persap is an in-house human resources/financial system that addresses the police's unique requirements to ensure "appropriate managerial and reporting capability on human resource and financial processes and procedures".

Arendse said: "I find this bizarre in the extreme as the required organisational design and work study has already been presented to you after the AGU commander, General André Lincoln, received no support or assistance from head office staff in this regard, acting under your command.

"General Lincoln was forced to prepare and present this report to you himself - without your or any other assistance."

Arendse further alleged that top cops in the province launched "an illegal counter-strategy" to the AGU, labelled Operation MORT (Major Offences Reaction Team) which he claimed removed 287 police members and 125 vehicles from stations and specialised units across the Western Cape.

He alleged that MORT had been operating with a budget of R1.1m per month for the last four months, even though Sitole did not sign off on an organisational design and work study.

Arendse said MORT was duplicating the work the AGU and other specialised units and stations already did.

"To put it bluntly, General, the AGU has not received a single cent via an operating budget because you - and those acting under your command - appear to have failed miserably to execute your oath of office and the will of government and our people."

He said Sitole should remedy the situation immediately.

If this was not done by Tuesday afternoon, he intended laying charges against Sitole and other police officials "who have failed to uphold the oath of office you publicly undertook when receiving the Sword of Command".

News24 approached Cele's spokesperson, Reneilwe Serero, on Tuesday afternoon for comment. On Wednesday, Serero confirmed the letter had reached the minister's office.

The information was, however, addressed to the national police commissioner and a response "will be provided through the relevant office".

"I can also confirm that the Minister of Police will engage the national commissioner on the matter," Serero said.

News24 also approached national SAPS spokesperson, Colonel Athlenda Mathe, for comment via phone calls and messages on Tuesday afternoon. The comment will be added once received.

The South African Government News Agency reported on Wednesday that Cele would be elevating the unit to the national office to extend its mandate in dealing with community crimes. It was not immediately clear if this move was a response to Arendse's claims.

"In responding directly to the scourge of gangsterism, the Anti-Gang Unit will be elevated to a national division, and other specialised units will be introduced," Cele said in the statement.

"This unit will extend its mandate and deal with other crimes of fear that are terrorising our communities."

This would also include murder, rape, car hijackings, house robberies, house burglaries and cash-in-transit heists.

A detective academy will also be introduced.

This is not the first sign of problems in the newly-launched unit to emerge this past week.

In a scathing letter earlier this month, Lincoln wrote to Western Cape police commissioner Lieutenant General Khombinkosi Jula to request the removal of a brigadier and two colonels who had been placed in his unit by Jula himself.

Lincoln is understood to have written the letter a day after his officers were wounded in an early morning shootout in Samora Machel, about 20km outside Cape Town.

Western Cape police spokesperson Novela Potelwa said last week that the acting provincial commissioner had appointed Major General Oswald Reddy to investigate "all issues pertaining to the attack".

"The investigation will also include recent allegations about some SAPS members that surfaced in media reports. It is requested that the investigation be allowed space to reach finality," she said.

News24

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