Western Cape Premier Helen Zille says President Jacob Zuma wants an assessment of the gang situation in Lavender Hill and Hanover Park on the Cape. In a letter to her, he said he has asked the ministers of defence and police, to give him a report on the situation there before making a decision on her request to call in the troops, she said in a statement yesterday.
“While I acknowledge that it would be prudent for the president to consult with the ministers, the situation in the affected areas has reached crisis levels and we cannot afford undue delays if we are to prevent the further loss of innocent lives,” Zille said. In a letter to the presidency last week, Zille asked Zuma to deploy soldiers to gang-ridden areas. She asked for troops to be sent at once to Lavender Hill and Hanover Park, where there had been a “serious spike” in gang-related deaths.
At least 23 people, including seven children, had died in recent months. In her letter, Zille said the deployment of the South African National Defence Force in gang hotspots over December had markedly improved safety levels.
Zille says the military should only be deployed for internal functions in emergencies. But the ‘spike’ of gang violence … is such an emergency. … After careful consideration, I and my Cabinet colleagues have concluded that the current situation is beyond the capacity of the … SAPS to control. They need the support of the … SANDF to restore order,” Zille said.
She added there are now more than 130 gangs with a collective membership of around 100 000, particularly in the poorest areas such as Hanover Park and Lavender Hill. She added that drugs such as crystal methamphetamine, known locally as “tik”, has intensified the extent of gangsterism in the province.
Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa visited the two suburbs on Wednesday to speak to residents. According to a media report, he said bringing in the army to combat gangsterism would turn these areas into war zones. He reportedly added the army did not have the equipment to fight gangsterism in Cape Town Mthethwa said he was perturbed by how people in the Western Cape wanted to deal with the situation. “If people don’t have much to say about safety they must just shut up because they are not helping,” he said. He added safety and security “must not” be turned into a political matter. “The army doesn’t have what the police have… water cannon and rubber bullets… forget about the army, really.” Zille was not informed of the visit and heard about it through the media, The Times newspaper reported.
In her response to Zuma’s letter, Zille said: “The Minister of Police was so quick to reject the proposed employment of the SANDF that he made no effort to engage with the Western Cape Government when he recently visited the affected areas, despite the Provincial Executive’s constitutional obligation to oversee the efficiency and effectiveness of SAPS in the Western Cape. His response to my request to you has not only politicised the issue, but left the impression that the decision was his, rather than yours, and that he had already decided to decline my request to you.”
In addition to being premier, Zille is also leader of the national opposition Democratic Alliance and often attracts ruling party fire.