South Africa: Gauteng to Intensify Anti-Crime Operation, Improve Health

The Gauteng Provincial Government has vowed to intensify its crime combatting Operation Okae Molao across the province to curb incidents of lawlessness.

In a wide-ranging interview with SAnews, provincial government spokesperson Vuyo Mhaga said Okae Molao is already yielding desirable results, despite criticism from some quarters.

The operation emanated from President Cyril Ramaphosa's State of the Nation Address, where leaders were urged to build an "activist government". The operation sees Premier David Makhura and members of his executive join law enforcement agencies in coordinated operations every Thursday.

Mhaga said the weekly outreach is an opportunity for officials to be on the ground to get a first-hand account of events and to communicate directly with citizens. "The logic around it is to make sure that we are visible in the work we do."

On Wednesday evenings, officials finalise plans for Thursday's campaigns. It's a carefully coordinated process that is heavily reliant on intelligence. Roadblocks are usually conducted too.

"We do roadblocks to ensure that people are compliant and that there are no stolen cars. We have actually discovered that there are many of those. Crime is one of the major issues in our province.

"The idea has always been that if you kill crime in Gauteng and in the Western Cape, you literally halve crime in the country. We have a responsibility to create that environment and for business to come and invest," Mhaga said.

Security cluster departments, local/metro police departments, South African Revenue Service (SARS) and liquor boards are all involved in the operation. The operation has already hit hotspots in Tshwane, Vaal, Johannesburg and East Rand.

Mhaga said a big focus now is on securing convictions after arrests. Engagements are ongoing with the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) regarding the arrest and release of suspects.

"You can't arrest someone today and tomorrow they are back on the streets. There must be a means to first check if this guy is not wanted for other things and [abuse of] bail conditions [because] it makes a mockery of the whole system and erodes confidence," he said.

Hijacked buildings

Another problem tackled through Operatin Okae Molao is that of hijacked buildings, a phenomenon common in the Joburg CBD.

Mhaga said the province is working systemically to stop this sinister practice.

"... We will seal these buildings. We have requested the City [of Johannesburg] to actually find out who these buildings belong to."

One suggestion on the table, Mhaga said, is to turn some of the buildings into student accommodation.

Turning health around

Mhaga said a lot of work lies ahead in turning around the state of affairs at the Provincial Health Department.

"We have not shied away from the fact that it is terrible - that's where we are (sic)... We will be doing a lot of spot checks," said Mhaga, highlighting that Tembisa, Jubilee, Bheki Mlangeni and Vereeniging hospitals will all be kept under a sharp eye.

The spot checks will be done unannounced to get an accurate picture of how communities are really served.

"Some of the conversations we are having with the national department is that they should take [these hospitals] back because they are a national competency... It would release the burden of funds from the province. I think we spent about R9 billion on these hospitals," he said.

This money, Mhaga said, could then be diverted to provincial hospitals.

"Primary healthcare facilities must be a point of entry. People walk to their community centre and get the medication and treatment that they want [and] only go to these hospitals on a referral," he said, adding that the plan is to have a strong primary healthcare.

The provincial government has decided that all 32 primary healthcare facilities will open 24 hours a day.

To dispense chronic medication, Mhaga said departmental healthcare workers will now deliver treatment to patients. Gauteng is also considering roping in general practitioners in private practice and local supermarkets to dispense medication.

"Part of the things that the MEC will be rolling out is e-health. Instead of being told that a file is missing, you and your health history can now be traced," said Mhaga.

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