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How the Gauteng premier plans to use tech in the fight against violent crime

  • Premier Panyaza Lesufi has indicated that Gauteng is working on a strategy that will bring crime fighting in the province “to the next level.”
  • Earlier in October, Lesufi detailed plans to roll out more CCTV systems in townships, as well as the deployment of drones and a panic button app to aid law enforcement.
  • The province has yet to indicate how it plans to deal with loadshedding in its tech-focused strategies, nor from where the funding of these initiatives will come.

Residents of the metropolitan regions of Gauteng are usually well aware of the province’s high crime rate. The cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria are commonly featured in lists naming the world’s most dangerous places to live.

While South Africa has a generally high rate of violent and traumatic crime and cities like Cape Town in the Western Cape have murder rates infamous around the world, Gauteng has the capabilities to use its resources to do something about its particular criminal problem.

At least this is what recently appointed Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi believes. In fact, the premier has made it plain that Gauteng’s provincial government is working on a new strategy to meet crime head-on, according to SA News.

Lesufi says that this strategy will take the fight against crime “to the next level” and will be revealed to the public in full soon.

“We will make announcements on this matter. We have finalised the strategy, we have costed it [and] we really believe that it will assist us to arrest some of the situations that we have. We have shared that strategy with the police, they are agreeing to it,” the premier said on Monday.

This comes as the premier briefed the media outside of the family home of four-year-old Bokgabo Poo. A 30-year-old man is alleged to have murdered the toddler and left her mutilated body outside of Tamboville, near Brakpan, where she was recovered last week.

“We need to unleash all the law enforcement agencies… I have asked the police to bring all the technology that they have at their disposal so that we can assist the family to close this chapter that is so painful,” Lesufi said.

The premier’s plan is to ensure that “every place in this province” is under the watch of the police and that the provincial government has been moving budgets and resources everywhere to make this happen.

On 11th October, as Mzikayifani Khumalo was appointed Gauteng’s new MEC for egovernment, Lesufi elucidated more aspects that could be implemented in Gauteng’s tech-focused crime-fighting plan. Including his wish for the department of egovernment to serve as the “back end” of the strategy.

“Which simply means we need an integrated intelligence operation centre which can pull everyone in the fight against crime”, he said. In his strategy, egovernment will serve as the “brains” behind law enforcement through an “intelligence platform.”

“That’s a massive task,” the premier admitted, adding that without the necessary capacity, resources, skills, and talent it simply will not come to fruition.

“We mean business when we say that we want to expose criminals,” the premier said, detailing lofty plans to make use of “next-generation” drones that wouldn’t need sophisticated operators and “high-caliber” CCTV cameras in townships, which will be priority areas, according to Lesufi.

The provincial government is apparently looking to introduce an “epanic button.” An app that people could use wherever they are if they feel threatened, “and our law enforcement will come and rescue you,” Lesufi said. This, we will wait to see to believe.

Further, the premier wants egovernment to introduce new methods of vehicle tracking, as well as new capabilities to track stolen guns and other goods such as laptops.

Finally, the premier said he wants Gauteng to become a cashless province, meaning that all financial transactions will move to the digital space – “If we manage cash, we can manage crime.”

While the premier says that the government has already drawn up the budget and necessary resources to execute its future crime-fighting strategy, it is yet unknown which of the many initiatives the premier highlighted will actually be put in place. Or whether they will become sustainable in the long term.

His comments outside of the Poo residence seem to point out that an increased CCTV presence in townships could be a possible outcome. In 2019, Gauteng launched a similar plan to install CCTVs in the suburbs of Johannesburg with the rollout of 15 000 the state-of-the-art cameras planned.

The costs of installing a single CCTV system from parts to installation can run up a bill of ~R6 900 to ~R38 000. Even if the government focuses only on townships where crime is particularly high, this initiative alone could cost millions of Rand.

Notwithstanding costs for the additional plans of the deployment of drones, etracking methods, and the development of a panic-button app. Questions arise about from where will the government summon the capital for these initiatives.

The provincial government have also not indicated how these plans will fair with the ceaseless bouts of daily loadshedding. We ask what use will CCTV be in townships if they’re offline due to power cuts?

[Image – Tobias Tullius on Unsplash]

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