SA Army ready to take on city’s gangs

SANDF wait­ing for Pres­i­dent Zuma’s or­ders to move in

Cape Argus - - FRONT PAGE - Ja­son Felix

TROOPS are “ready and wait­ing” for Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s or­der to hit the ground run­ning in Cape Town’s gang-rav­aged com­mu­ni­ties. Po­lice Min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula on Tues­day ap­pealed to the SANDF to sup­port the po­lice in com­bat­ing crime in Gaut­eng and the Western Cape, “two of the most crime stub­born prov­inces”, his of­fice said.

“When I vis­ited the com­mu­nity of Elsies River, one com­mu­nity leader re­ferred to the may­hem caused by gangs as acts of ter­ror­ism. I want to tell the peo­ple of Elsies River that I heard them, and I’m act­ing,” Mbalula said in a state­ment.

“We will never fail our peo­ple, we will squeeze the space for crim­i­nals, and we will lib­er­ate our peo­ple from pris­ons of fear.”

Bri­gadier-Gen­eral Mafi Mgob­ozi, spokesper­son for the SANDF, said al­though they had not yet been given any or­ders, they were ready and wait­ing.

“The pres­i­dent of the coun­try has the au­thor­ity to give the or­der. We have seen the re­quest made by min­is­ter Mbalula, but there has not been any­thing for­mal. Our min­is­ter, No­siviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, is in talks with Mbalula. We are ready and wait­ing to be de­ployed to the prov­inces.”

If the re­quest is suc­cess­ful, the troops will pri­mar­ily be de­ployed in gang-in­fested com­mu­ni­ties in Cape Town, while in Gaut­eng they will be “broadly” de­ployed.

Western Cape Premier He­len Zille wel­comed the re­sponse by Mbalula to her an­nounce­ment that SANDF in­ter­ven­tion would be placed on the pro­vin­cial cab­i­net agenda.

She said it was “a step in the right di­rec­tion”, but a more per­ma­nent so­lu­tion needed to be found.

But Mbalula’s spokesper­son, Vuyo Mhaga, said there was cur­rently no in­ten­tion to work with pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment.

“There’s one po­lice force and one de­fence force, and they are at na­tional level. That is where we will be work­ing. We’ve not acted on the re­quest or an­nounce­ment of politi­cians who don’t un­der­stand crime fight­ing. What­ever the premier does, has noth­ing to with us or crime fight­ing,” he said.

Com­mu­nity polic­ing fo­rums (CPF) from some of Cape Town’s most vi­o­lent ar­eas have wel­comed Mbalula’s re­quest for the SANDF.

Ru­sanda Pas­coe, chair­per­son of the Ma­nen­berg Safety Fo­rum, said de­ploy­ing troops might quell the sit­u­a­tion mo­men­tar­ily, but warned that a longer-term so­lu­tion was needed.

“We need to ad­dress the so­cial is­sues. There are po­lit­i­cal fig­ures who are us­ing this is­sue to grand­stand and claim some sort of vic­tory. The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment should fo­cus on the so­cial is­sues in the com­mu­nity. They have cre­ated a cli­mate where all these prob­lems will thrive. The na­tional gov­ern­ment should fo­cus on de­ploy­ing more po­lice to gang-in­fested ar­eas. While these two beasts fight it out, we in com­mu­ni­ties suf­fer,” Pas­coe said.

Abie Isaacs, CPF chair­per­son in Mitchells Plain, said the de­ploy­ment of troops was long over­due.

“We need to put the de­ploy­ment of our troops into per­spec­tive. They are only there to pro­vide a sup­port role to po­lice, un­less oth­er­wise in­structed. The army will act as a de­ter­rent and strengthen the po­lice. I im­plore Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma to speed­ily con­sider the re­quest,” he said.

Spokesper­son for the Pres­i­dency Bon­gani Ngqu­lunga said: “The re­quest to de­ploy troops has not been re­ceived by the Pres­i­dency. It will be pro­cessed and con­sid­ered when it has been de­liv­ered.”

PICTURE: HENK KRUGER

ON PATROL: Soldiers were pre­vi­ously de­ployed in spots across Laven­der Hill. The SANDF says it is ‘ready and wait­ing’ for or­ders to en­ter gang-rav­aged com­mu­ni­ties.

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