Policing drones for Gauteng, South Africa

Sometimes you just have to laugh.

It might sound incredible, but we can assure you that even before we started perusing the State of the Province Address document for South Africa’s Gauteng province by Premier Panyaza Lesufi, we had the following introduction in mind:

We have a blueprint story alert. You know; the kind of story where grand plans are announced which you’re not even sure will come alive during your lifetime – but you cover them anyway in case lightning strikes.

All the time hoping you will not be left with a lot of egg on your face when, a decade from now, a stack of stories about these announcements will feel like they were such a waste of time and space.

Like they were written by an intern with nothing else to do.

But believe it or not, below is the first thing that we read when we came to the crime section on the document;

“If I had a choice, I would not deliver this State of the Province Address (SOPA), as our people have lost confidence in what we say,” Premier Lesufi said, in his State of the Province Address to the Gauteng Provincial Legislature last week.

“They think we talk too much and do less. My preference would have been to take you to different sites of Gauteng to showcase the work we have done. Let me assure you, we will talk less and do more.”

Yes; it is there in black and white. That is what the provincial governor said; on the backdrop of grim crime statistics for South Africa that were released just a few days ago.

Police statistics for South Africa showed that in the last quarter of 2022, an average of 82 people were murdered every day across the country, with 7,555 cases recorded at police stations countrywide during that period.

All in all, the country’s official police records show 27,066 murders were recorded across the year 2022, translating to an average of 74 people being killed every day for the whole of last year.

“Arguments, misunderstandings and incidents of road rage and provocations accounted for 956 murders in the country,” said Police Minister Bheki Cele in November last year.

“Vigilantism incidents claimed the lives of 528 people while 362 people were killed during the commission of a robbery.

“Inanda, uMlazi, police stations in KwaZulu-Natal and Nyanga station in the Western Cape registered the highest counts of murder during this period. A total of 274 counts of murder were reported in those three areas combined.”

Gauteng Province Premier, Panyaza Lesufi. Picture: Gallo Images/Papi Morake

So why are we giving you all this on this platform, you may wonder.

It is because the Gauteng premier has promised to incorporate drone technology into his province’s fight against crime and climate change.

Lesufi promised his provincial government would set aside a “multi-billion” rand budget towards combating crime in the next three years.

“We are increasing our budget of fighting crime from R750million to multi-billion in the next three years,” said Lesufi, adding that from April this year, the Gauteng government will install CCTV cameras in public places, add four more helicopters to the policing repertoire, which will work in collaboration with other manned aircraft offered by private security stakeholders in the province.

“To ensure that our police are not sacrificial lambs in the battles with criminals (22 police officers were killed while on duty between July and September last year), we are at an advanced stage to procure 180 state of the art drones that will infiltrate areas that are difficult to patrol and police.

“These drones are equipped with technology that can capture the direction of a bullet and where they come from.”

He added that the drones will work in tandem with a new fleet of 400 police patrol vehicles to be added to the inventory beginning in May this year, along with 6,000 new police recruits and 10,000 private security companies.

On climate change, the premier said drone technology will be among implements used in disaster recovery efforts across the province.

“We are establishing a combat ready Disaster Management Centre with state-of-the-art disaster management equipment,” he said.

“It will also house helicopters, drones, and highly skilled personnel that can respond within the shortest possible time. Areas prone to disasters such as, Jukskei River in Alexandra Township will receive additional support to relocate within the shortest possible time when the disaster centre is in full force.”

If you are wondering why we have trust issues; we have written something like this before; and are yet to see these plans come to fruition. There was a time when we reported that the South African Police Service (SAPS) was planning to purchase a fleet of about 160 drones to help carry out its mandate across the country.

Those drones are not on the ground, or in the air yet.

Besides there was the Johannesburg Forum on Integrated Risk Management (FIRM), an initiative which sought to bring together private and public stakeholders in deploying technology which included drones, CCTVs and other related new technology to fight crime in the city of Johannesburg.

It seems that initiative is on the verge of suffering a stillbirth.


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