New Gauteng premier tasks e-govt to use tech to fight crime

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 12 Oct 2022
Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi.
Gauteng premier Panyaza Lesufi.

Premier Panyaza Lesufi has tasked the Gauteng Department of e-Government to come up with smart technology solutions that will help fight crime.

This comes soon after Lesufi’s election as Gauteng premier and a Cabinet reshuffle, which sees new MEC Mzi Khumalo take charge of the e-government department.

Lesufi yesterday visited the e-government department – as part of a series of departmental visits in Gauteng – to outline the priorities to senior management.

The visit also served as an opportunity to unpack his mandate for the next 18 months, which heavily focuses on strengthening the fight against crime, corruption, vandalism and lawlessness.

The premier described this mandate as the move to e-security, which will entail the introduction of an e-panic button, facial recognition CCTV, high-quality drones and reliable internet connectivity in the province.

“There are four strategic areas where we need you. The first one, which is the priority of this administration, is the back-end behind crime-fighting and law enforcement. You are going to be the back-end, which means we need an integrated intelligence operation centre…in the fight against crime.

“You are going to be the brains behind fighting, but those particular brains are going to be through the intelligence platform.

“That’s the massive task…and you don’t execute that task without the capacity, resources, skills and talent.”

E-government MEC Khumalo said the premier’s mandate for the department is clear.

Adding to the premier’s request, Khumalo said: “Let us recommit ourselves. These things that are termed as our mandate − we’ve got a short time to implement them.

“We also understand that we are not starting afresh; we don’t have five years where we can sit down, conceptualise, argue and all of those things. We have little time to ensure we hit the ground [running] and implement the things that have been put forth.”

Premier Panyaza Lesufi and MEC Mzi Khumalo sit with the delegation of the Gauteng Department of e-Government.
Premier Panyaza Lesufi and MEC Mzi Khumalo sit with the delegation of the Gauteng Department of e-Government.

Like the rest of the country, the Gauteng province has recorded an escalation in crime incidents, ranging from murder, violent crime, hijackings, theft and sexual offences.

The first quarter crime statistics for the 2022/23 financial year shows 1 490 murder case reports in Gauteng between April and June this year. Of those murders, 155 victims were women and 50 were children.

In addition, there’s reportedly been an increase in business robberies, with aggravating circumstances.

According to Lesufi, the department must work towards introducing an e-panic button that will be downloadable via an app. “The button is intended to alert law enforcement agencies of any dangers that residents may be in.

“It’s going to be a massive game-changer for us, because we want law enforcement agencies to patrol each and every ward, so that if somebody presses the panic button, there’s a response. It must function at all times.

“We want high-calibre face recognition CCTVs in all our townships, informal settlements and hostels. We also need the next-generation of drones…we mean it when we say we want to expose criminals. We want to use technology to push back on criminality. Drones are strategic in assisting against crime – they can go anywhere, anytime.”

Given that motor vehicles are always involved where crimes are committed, the premier stated there must be a change in the registration of motor vehicles, including number plates and tracking capabilities.

“As a state, we are bringing an element of tracking technology,” he said, adding that the second part must be the tracking of stolen guns.

“Everyone that has a licensed gun in Gauteng, we want to track that gun. It is guns that are stolen from legitimate owners that are used to kill us. We need to have that tracking capability to track that gun.”

He concluded by saying the provincial government wants to convert Gauteng into a cashless province. “One of the key contributing factors in crime is cash. If we can manage cash, we can manage crime.

“The digitalisation of our departments and eliminating paper within government is also a priority.”