The fight against the scourge of gangsterism and drugs is to receive a welcome boost after Police Minister; Nathi Nhleko on Monday announced plans to reintroduce specialized crime units within the South African Police Services (SAPS). The decision was taken following a meeting on Friday between the Minister and the respective security MECs in all nine provinces. The announcement has been praised by MEC for Community Safety in the Western Cape, Dan Plato, who has actively propagated for the units’ reestablished following its decommissioning during the 2003-2004 financial year.
“It is a welcome call. We have to start somewhere and begin to move forward for these units to be in operation. I was very pleased on Friday that I was supported by some of the other MEC’s (In this call),” he said.
It is still early days to determine a date for the introduction of the units, as the Minister would still need to put in place the necessary systems, as well as seek approval from cabinet and parliament at large. Plato predicted anywhere between one or two years before the units became fully operational.
The specialized gang units were decommissioned well over a decade ago under then police commissioner, Jackie Selebi. Plato said there were likely various reasons as to the decision, but noted that it had not in anywhere had the desired effect of addressing the country, and province’s drug and gang problems. Since then, the Western Cape in particular has seen a soaring of related incidents, which in 2003 stood at just under 20 000.
“Today we are sitting with just over 82 000 drugs and gang related crime figures in the Western Cape. The figures show that it was a mistake to disband those units, because the floodgates for drug trafficking in the Western Cape and South Africa at large opened,” he said.
The need for such a unit was even more imperative now according to Plato, in a time where police were being forced to deal with sophisticated and well-organized criminal operations. These syndicates included the assistance of business people and police officers themselves.
“You need people of this magnitude to fight the issue. Even if it means another two, three or four years to have a fully fledged unit back in place again, you have to at least start somewhere. The announcement is the beginning of such a process,” giving his full backing for such a force.
Minister Nhleko has called for a workshop with all MECs within the security sector to be held within the next 30 days, in which more information in the specialized units are expected to be divulged. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)