Military not to help fight Cape gangs


President Jacob Zuma has taken a decision not to deploy troops to parts of Cape Town affected by gang activity. Instead, he has opted for more intensive action by the police and long-term interventions by social and economic clusters of government, the Presidency says.

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille had asked Zuma to deploy troops in light of brazen criminality by gangs, state news agency, SAnews, reports.

The President was briefed by the Ministers of Police and Defence and Military Veterans regarding the situation in Cape Town suburbs of Hanover Park and Lavender Hill following a joint task team comprising personnel from police and the Department of Defence and Military Veterans beingsent to the two suburbs to assess the situation.

The Presidency said the briefing from the two ministers highlighted that:
· The situation in these areas required a long term and multi-disciplinary approach.
· The South African Police Service (SAPS) has the necessary capacity to deal with the situation in these areas.
· The situation does not require the deployment of members of the South African National Defence Force.
· There are socio-economic conditions which need to be addressed in these areas.

SAPS has adopted a strategy to deal with the current situation that includes:
• Increased capacity to gather intelligence information in these areas;
• Increased police capacity and visibility in these areas;
• Increased community mobilisation and interaction;
• Partnerships and co-operation with government departments and NGOs.

Government’s response will extend to the areas of Manneberg, Elsies Rivier and Nyanga where gang activity was also prevalent, the state agency said. Zuma has also directed ministers in the social and economic sectors to study the situation and to look for long term solutions that promote sustainable development and stable communities. The President will monitor the situation to ascertain success of the initiatives and further decisions will be taken if necessary, the Presidency added.

Zille says Zuma’s response had been expected because Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa had vehemently opposed the idea as soon as it was suggested. “He [Mthethwa] went in there [to Lavender Hill and Hanover Park] even before the president had responded to me, and even before he had any of the facts, figures or analysis; he already said ‘No’,” said Zille. When Mthethwa visited the two areas last month he said the police were better equipped than the army to fight gangsters, The Times newspaper reports.

Zuma’s spokesman, Mac Maharaj, yesterday said that, instead of deploying troops on the Cape Flats, more intensive action was needed by the police along with “long-term interventions by the social and economic clusters of the government”. But Zille said the military had been sent to rein in gang violence last year and had been sent into the townships at the request of the previous ANC provincial administration.

This contradicts the Port Elizabeth-based Herald newspaper that reported earlier this month the military would be supporting the police and other state agencies fighting gang warfare in the Cape Town – and Nelson Mandela Bay metropoles. “In a bold move, the military and other state agencies are being roped in to fight gang warfare in the Eastern and Western Cape. Gang hotspots – including Helenvale, Gelvandale and Bethelsdorp in Port Elizabeth and Lavender Hill and Hanover Park in the Western Cape – are believed to have been prioritised,” the paper said.
‘While officials at the various departments involved are tight-lipped about the matter, The Herald has seen a national order – sent to both the Eastern and Western Cape police commissioners by National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure chairman Lieutenant-General Elias Mawela – instructing them to form the Provincial Priority Committee to clamp down on gang warfare and drug hotspots,” the paper added. National police spokesman Colonel Vishnu Naidoo refused to comment on the order, saying it was strictly confidential. “This is the reason why we want the[Protection of State] Information Bill to be passed,” he said. “These are operational issues and I do not know how they got into the hands of the media.”

The order also spells out what roles the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), the Home Affairs, Correctional Services and Justice departments, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and other organisations will play. The defence force will provide airborne and logistical support and accommodation for police. “(The) SANDF will only physically be involved during intelligence-driven operations with regards to cordon and search,” the four page order, “Combating gangsterism in Western Cape and Eastern Cape”, apparently asserts.

The document reportedly lists several operational focus areas, including “stability operations including roadblocks and vehicle checkpoints; enhanced crime prevention; effective border management through ports of entry; and, enhanced intelligence-driven operations and prompt investigation of all cases.”