Institutional capacity of the South African Police Service for disaster risk reduction in the Dr Kenneth Kaunda district municipality
Brazer, Peter Jacobus
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The South African Police Service's (SAPS) main responsibility, according to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, is to protect and safeguard the inhabitants of South Africa. The SAPS had to adjust to different regime changes as occurred both before 1994 and after 1994. The main aim of the previous dispensation was to deliver a service to a minority of the population. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act, Act 57 of 1996 changed the face of Government. The new dispensation brought on after 1994 was that every person in this country has a right to receive service from National, Provincial and Local Government. The change from the old dispensation to the new caused a vacuum between the different Government departments in terms of disaster risk reduction. To bridge this gap, the Cabinet in 1997 established the Inter–Ministerial Committee on Disaster Management (IMC). This resulted in a Cabinet resolution to follow international trends and take a new look at the whole concept of civil protection. The Inter–Ministerial processes consulted a wide array of stakeholders in South Africa and this led to the publishing of the Green Paper on Disaster Management in February 1998. The Green Paper, which highlighted the need for a holistic mechanism for the management of disasters in South Africa, was followed in the following year by the White Paper process and in January 1999, for the first time, South Africa had a national policy on the management of disasters. The newly elected democratic government resolved to move away from traditional thinking that nothing could be done to prevent disasters. They developed strategies in line with global trends by integrating risk reduction methodologies into development initiatives, to build resilience in households, communities and areas known to be at risk. The SAPS role in the Civil Protection Act, Act 67 of 1977, was limited merely to giving help and assistance as requested by National, Provincial and Local Government. The Disaster Management Act, Act 57 of 2002, emphasises the multi–disciplinary and multi–sectoral role of disaster risk management in South Africa. The South African Police has had to adapt to these changes. Local Government and all relevant role–players and disaster risk management structures' main responsibility is to protect and safeguard South African citizens. The SAPS' role and responsibility must be incorporated into existing disaster risk management structures, yet the application of disaster risk management within the SAPS itself is also crucial. The purpose of the study was to explore what is expected from the SAPS in terms of disaster risk management, and to compare it with what is actually happening at the frontline. The SAPS can only fully participate in disaster risk management functions if the SAPS understands its own role and functions itself. This study's aim was to identify any shortcomings internally which prevented the SAPS from achieving its rightful place in the disaster risk management realm using the geographical area of the Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality as the focus area of the research. The qualitative research focus of this mini–dissertation necessitated that the researcher use semi–structured interviews (face–to–face or telephonically) in order to explore, define and obtain the data relevant to the research. Interviews with officials who are daily deployed on the frontline revealed information about their needs and frustrations experienced with the present approach to disaster risk management in the SAPS. Information collected from the interviews was grouped and analysed, key concepts were identified and received attention. Constant comparisons were drawn between the experience received from the frontline officials in the SAPS and the theory underlying this study. The research found that the SAPS in the Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality area is not up to standard in its approach to disaster risk management and its needed institutional capacity. The SAPS spends most of its time, funds, and resources on its primary function. Disaster risk reduction and institutional capacity development for disaster risk management will become part of the SAPS' duties in its daily activities. Structures and policies are needed in the SAPS to achieve such success. The research recommends that if the SAPS wants to establish itself as a role–player in the disaster risk management realm, attention must be given to the development and establishment of structures and policies. Structures and policies will bring all the SAPS disaster risk management role–players into line with the requirements of the disaster risk management legislation and policy, and will lead to a uniform approach to disaster risk management in the SAPS within the Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality. Mr Mandela (1994: 202), in his inauguration speech as the first democratically elected black President of South Africa emphasised: “The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not be oppressed. I have walked a long road to freedom. But I discovered that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended”. Disaster Risk Management in the SAPS can be seen as one of these processes which never will be for finalised, but needs constant focus and effort to be successful.
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