Daily Dis­patch

Call­ing in the army off-base

Daily Dispatch - - Opinion -

IN a coun­try as crime-rid­den as ours, it is un­der­stand­able why the call by Po­lice Min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula for the army to be brought in to as­sist the po­lice in the fight against crime would be ap­plauded by some.

It is a known fact that crim­i­nals rule the roost in our com­mu­ni­ties. Res­i­dents live in con­stant fear of be­ing at­tacked or even killed by mer­ci­less thugs who con­trol our neigh­bour­hoods. The sit­u­a­tion, par­tic­u­larly in Cape Town, is re­ally bad. To say that it is a war-zone is no ex­ag­ger­a­tion.

Run­ning bat­tles be­tween crim­i­nal gangs and vig­i­lantes in Marikana in­for­mal set­tle­ment, out­side Cape Town, have left a shock­ing 23 peo­ple dead. This all hap­pened over a two-week pe­riod and the body con­tin­ues to grow. So when a po­lice min­is­ter stands on a public plat­form and calls on his De­fence coun­ter­part No­siviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to as­sist him in fight­ing gangs in Cape Town and Jo­han­nes­burg, it may sound like the per­fect an­ti­dote to our crime prob­lem. In a state­ment re­leased on Wed­nes­day, Mbalula said crim­i­nals armed with “weapons of war” were ter­ror­is­ing com­mu­ni­ties. “It has been de­cided that ur­gent ad­di­tional steps must be taken in or­der to in­ter­de­part­men­tally man­age the cur­rent scourge of crime in gen­eral.

“Sta­bil­i­sa­tion and com­bat­ing of these crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ties are within the man­date of the South African Po­lice Ser­vice but due to the large group­ings and mil­i­tary train­ing of some of the per­pe­tra­tors, the SANDF is re­quested to as­sist,” said the state­ment.

The de­ci­sion to de­ploy the army rests with Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma as he is the only one who can do so con­sti­tu­tion­ally.

So Mbalula has ef­fec­tively passed the buck on to his boss. It is worth not­ing that the call for army de­ploy­ment to crime hotspots was first made by Western Cape pre­mier He­len Zille. But the then po­lice min­is­ter Nathi Mthethwa had re­jected the call, ar­gu­ing that the po­lice were more than ca­pa­ble of com­bat­ing crime.

Ba­si­cally Mbalula’s call has con­firmed our worst fears – that po­lice have lost the bat­tle against crime. They can no longer be re­lied upon to pro­tect us. Ef­fec­tively he is say­ing that the po­lice are not cop­ing.

But bring­ing in the army will not solve our crime prob­lem.

As the In­sti­tute for Se­cu­rity Stud­ies (ISS) cor­rectly put it, bring­ing out the army is just a short-term so­lu­tion and will not re­solve the un­der­ly­ing prob­lems fac­ing our po­lice. ISS’s Gareth Ne­wham said Mbalula must in­stead fix the po­lice.

“What needs to hap­pen is that we need to fix the po­lice‚ start­ing with the se­nior man­age­ment. Over the last six years we have seen the po­lice bud­get go up by 50% to the cur­rent bud­get of R87-bil­lion …We have had an in­crease in bud­get but de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in po­lice per­for­mance. This has pro­vided space for an in­crease in or­gan­ised crime‚” said Ne­wham. De­ploy­ing the sol­diers is not a panacea to our crime prob­lem. Be­sides a mo­men­tary re­duc­tion in crime, as po­lice and army vis­i­bil­ity will de­ter the crim­i­nals, not much will change. As army de­ploy­ment is never per­ma­nent, this means that the may­hem will re­sume as soon as the sol­diers re­turn to their bar­racks. Mbalula must do his job and leave pop­ulist rhetoric to oth­ers.

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