CAPE TOWN – Western Cape Premier Helen Zille has again called for the deployment of the army in gang-infested areas.
Zille’s approaches have been dismissed in the past but she said on Monday she would hold discussions with the Provincial Police Command before making a formal approach to national ministers for the SANDF’s intervention.
“The public frustration is entirely understandable. The question the Western Cape provincial government must address is: What can we do to solve the problem? The answer, unfortunately, is very little, due to the way our constitution and the law apportion powers over policing (and the criminal justice system in general),” Zille said.
She highlighted that under-resourcing of SAPS remained the biggest driver of the safety crisis in parts of the province, which required assistance from national government.
“The fact is a mere 7% of police precincts in the Western Cape account for almost half of all murders. Police under-resourcing patterns tend to be evident in the same areas where crime is highest.
“We owe it to the people living in these unbearable circumstances to use every constitutional lever we can to help resolve the daily problems they face,” said Zille.
Activists and police forum members welcomed Zille’s plan but have questions on how long the army will stay and what happens after they leave.
Manenberg Policing Forum chairperson Roegshanda Pascoe said ridding communities of illegal firearms is crucial.
“We support bringing in the army but question what will happen after they have restored peace and leave.
“The army came once but look at how things are now? We are saying let us deploy the army and we want resources to be put into effect to get rid of the guns in our communities.
“We want answers from the premier’s office on what they have done to curb crime now that they are calling for the army.”
Pascoe believes more funds must be made available to assist organisations supporting policing efforts in communities.
Mitchells Plain Community Policing Forum chairperson Abie Isaacs said the the situation in Cape Flats communities had reached crisis proportions. “We do see the need for police being assisted by the army as manpower is not enough.
“We respect the police and believe they are there to maintain law and order, but gangsterism in our communities is rife. Police are under-resourced, hence less police visibility. Gang violence is still a problem. Communities like Rocklands, Hanover Park, Manenberg, Eastridge, Tafelsig and others need urgent assistance as innocent lives are affected.”
Lester September, chairperson of the Cape Flats Civics, said: “Calling in the army will mean all stakeholders have accepted defeat. All stakeholders need to tackle gangsterism and be transparent to the public.
“The problem is misallocation of SAPS resources, alcohol problems, unemployment and the dire need for social workers in Cape Flats areas.”
FILE PHOTO: Cops were locked in a shootout after responding to incidents where two alleged gangsters were killed. Picture: Leon Knipe