By Anees Teladia
With gang violence in the Western Cape proving to be unrelenting, members of the Mitchells Plain Cluster Community Policing Forum (CPF) met with the national Minister of Police, Bheki Cele to discuss ways of stabilising the province. Several high-profile cases of gang violence have occurred in the province in recent months, including an attack on six Anti-Gang Unit officers in Samora Machel. Despite desperate calls for the SANDF to be deployed in gang-ridden communities, Minister Cele maintains the view that deploying the army against citizenry – criminals or not – would be inappropriate and misguided.
“The minister had a different view with regards to our requests for the SANDF to be a force multiplier…it wasn’t about anything other than the request from the people on the ground, from our cluster, to have the SANDF as a temporary measure,” chair of the Mitchells Plain Cluster CPF, Lucinda Evans told VOC Breakfast Beat.
“The question is: if you say it’s not a good idea to have the SANDF [deployed], then what is your alternative? We want to know what the minister’s emergency plan is in terms of bringing the gang violence to a halt and stabilising these areas.”
Provincial community safety MEC, Albert Fritz revealed last week that between January and June this year, 1600 people were murdered in the province with the majority of these murders being gang-related.
Statistics sourced from the Forensic Services Unit in the Western Cape Department of Health reveal that in May this year, 331 murders were recorded in the province – a significant increase from the statistics reflecting 304 murders in May 2018.
Western Cape Premier, Alan Winde says that he fully supports the CPF’s call for the army to be deployed.
“The crime situation in the Western Cape requires urgent intervention. Due to massive under-resourcing, our police officers are being stretched thin. With too few officers and a lack of crime intelligence, police officers themselves are coming under attack from brazen criminals,” he said.
“The deployment of the SANDF as peacekeepers in our communities will act as an additional tool in our line of defence against criminals – adding to the police, community police forums, and neighbourhood watches. Any move that seeks to take back the power from gangsters and criminals, and which puts more boots on the ground, should be considered and supported.”
Evans highlighted the community’s concern for school children, both during the holiday periods as well as school terms, indicating that children are constantly in danger and lack the freedom to enjoy their childhood and education.
“Schools are opening in less than seven days and we demand that by that time, something significant would have happened. We’re not asking anymore,” said a disillusioned Evans.
“We have children who have not been able to play outside. They were either in their homes – under their beds – or their parents must lock them inside because they have to work. The nonstop shooting, bodies lying all over the place and communities being traumatised repeatedly, are a reality. This is what we told the national minister…we refuse to live like people that have no hope.”
Evans said Minister Cele will be having an urgent meeting with police management today and will thereafter provide feedback to the Mitchells Plain Cluster CPF. The cluster will also have a meeting tonight to “map the way forward” in light of the feedback to be received from the minister’s meeting.