Renewed calls for the army

Residents watch as police patrol between flats in Manenberg.

Premier Helen Zille will again table a proposal for the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to intervene in the fight against gang-related activity, at the next sitting of the Western Cape cabinet.

Discussions would also be held with the provincial police before making a formal approach to national ministers for the SANDF’s intervention.

This was revealed in the Premier’s latest Daily Maverick column on Monday October 9.

This follows shootings in Hanover Park on Saturday where one man was killed and a man and three police officers were injured.

The first shooting occurred at about 2pm at Garda Place where a 30-year-old man was shot in the stomach and back. He survived and was taken to hospital.

An hour later, a 31-year-old man was shot and killed in Howick Court.

According to Philippi police spokesperson Captain Lance Goliath, police were deployed into the area to search for suspects.

While patrolling in John Down Walk, two men opened fire on the police and injured three officers, aged 23 to 30 years old, shooting one in the thigh, one in the buttocks, and one in the abdomen. The officer shot in the thigh has since recovered and has been discharged from hospital.

Captain Goliath said the motive for the shooting is still unknown and that police were urging the community to come forward with information for which a reward would be given pending the outcome of the case.

He said police were unable to confirm whether the man killed was a gang member.

“The area is now stable as different forces have been deployed to the area. It has not been declared a red zone despite social media rumours,” he said.

A red zone would mean the area was on lock down.

He said police were dis-
appointed in the behaviour of some of the community members following the shooting of their officers.

“Our main objective is to prevent crime and build relationships with our community members. Members are trained to do their jobs well but are also human so we will pick ourselves up and move on,” he said.

At a media briefing held on Thursday September 7, Deputy Police Minister Bongani Mkongi said that areas including Hanover Park, Manenberg, Bonteheuwel, Mitchell’s Plain, Atlantis, Bishop Lavis and Bellville South had become safe havens for hardened criminals and thugs who terrorised the community and children. (“Squeeze gangsters’ out of communities”, Athlone News, September 13).

Discussing recent gang-related crime and violence across the province, Ms Zille said: “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)”.

“South Africa is, to my knowledge, the only country in the world where provinces have the very limited mandate of “oversight” over a highly centralised national police service, without any operational control over the police, no policy-making powers, and minimal ability to effect the necessary changes,” said Ms Zille.

She said the under-resourcing of police remained the biggest driver of the safety crisis in parts of the province – which required assistance from national government.

“The fact is a mere seven percent 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,” she said.

She said the latest proposal would look to the feasibility of requesting national government intervention to authorise the SANDF to assist the police to combat crime in the province.

Similar requests in the past by the premier have been turned down by national government. The Western Cape cabinet will again consider making the request.

“In short this means that defence force members can be deployed as force multipliers to assist the police and ‘blanket’ an area to crack down on drugs and crime. Of course, this must be done in the context of commitment to co-operative governance. We will have to discuss the proposal in detail in the Western Cape cabinet, as a precursor to discussions with the Provincial Police Command, as a prelude to approaching the relevant national ministers. We will have to make a strong evidence-based case of the extent of the crisis in certain areas, while avoiding, at all costs, an exercise in political point scoring,” said Ms Zille.

“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,” she said.

Resident Zainunisa Manus said while the army would be able to control the gang violence in Hanover Park, innocent people could also get hurt during their patrols.

But she said the conditions in the area remained unbearable.

“There is shooting on a daily basis. You constantly need to be aware of the shooting. People have to travel with public transport and children have to be escorted by their parents. They don’t care where they shoot or who they shoot. We are living on alert mode,” she said.

She said children could not play freely outside and parents have to watch them all the time.

“They can’t even play then we had to call them inside. At night when you sleep and you maybe have a double bunk no one wants to sleep on top because you are scared you are going to get shot through the window. You are not safe in your own home,” she said.

Ms Manus said she believed deploying more police officers to Philippi police station would help curb gang violence as they were “always under-resourced”.

“Some police are working with the gangsters. They are too familiar with these gangsters,” she said.

Captain Goliath said 16 men were arrested in the area for public violence on Saturday. While police patrolled, the suspects were standing in the street and were aggressive, he said. They were arrested after stoning police. The suspects appeared in the Athlone Magistrate’s Court on Monday October 9.