Deploying big guns in townships criticised
Fikile urged to use special unit to police gangs, not domestic abuse
POLICE Minister Fikile Mbalula’s decision to redeploy members of the SAPS Tactical Response Team (TRT) in the townships could meet resistance after some in the ranks of the police objected to it.
The South African Police Union (Sapu) has come out against the idea, saying the unit was not needed to deal with domestic violence.
Mbalula said in Parliament recently the unit needed to be redeployed in the townships.
The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) said it fully backs the minister to send the unit back into the townships.
But it warned against any form of brutality if it was sent back in the next few months.
Sapu general secretary Oscar Skommere said yesterday the TRT was not the right unit to deal with the wave of violent crime against women and children or other crimes.
“The bringing in of the TRT to the situation where women and children are killed will be a reactive type of (deployment), instead of research. Crime intelligence must be on the ground to feed information to the police.
“We know the TRT are ‘skop en donner’ – what are you going to do when a person is already dead?” Skommere asked.
He said communities must assist the police to fight crime.
“Without the community, police cannot win the war against crime,” said Skommere.
Popcru said it was fully behind Mbalula’s decision to send the TRT back into the townships. Its spokesperson, Richard Mamabolo, said the unit was misplaced in the police at the moment and doing things it was not meant to do.
He said the unit must be deployed to deal with kidnappings, cash-in-transit robberies and illegal firearms.
Mamabolo said most members of the TRT had been placed in the wrong departments following the restructuring of the police and that they were not doing what they were meant to do.
But Institute for Security Studies senior researcher Johan Burger said it was wrong for Mbalula to send the unit back into the townships.
He said the crimes against women and children happened behind closed doors and the TRT would not be able to deal with domestic violence cases.
He said the unit was created to deal with serious violent crimes involving criminal gangs armed with heavy-calibre weapons.
The TRT was trained for such situations and not domestic violence. “It was established to assist local police stations in situations where officers are confronted by heavily armed gangs,” Burger said.
“These TRT units need to be deployed to these crime scenes. These are the kind of officers on regular patrol; the bobby-onthe-beat patrol,” he said.
In the past four years, aggravated robbery has increased by 31% and the unit was needed in these cases, he pointed out.
Aggravated robberies included cash-in-transit heists where criminals carried heavy-calibre weapons. “I think there is a place for the TRT for crimes committed by heavily armed gangs,” Burger added.
DECISION DRAWS FLAK: Fikile Mbalula