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THE army was deployed to Cape Town to help the police just seven months ago “without a fuss”, says Premier Helen Zille, whose call for army reinforcements to fight gangs was rejected by the Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa this week.
Zille said this could be done again with the eruption of gang violence in some areas of Cape Town, and she failed to understand what the fuss was all about.
“There is nothing ‘populist’ about my call to bring in the army to restore calm so that the police can get on with investigative policing.
“The army was deployed last Christmas in comparable conditions and it worked well, and without fuss, without these kind of accusations.”
When the ANC was in power in the Western Cape it also brought in the army “in comparable circumstances”, she said.
“So I find it difficult to understand the fuss now. Perhaps we should ask who is being ‘populist’?”
Zille said earlier this week that gangs were an established part of the social geography and pathology of Cape Town.
She was responding to the Numsa union, which said her call was “populist posturing”.
It also said the move would reduce the police to “toothless dogs able to bark but never bite”.
Mthethwa said during his visit to Cape Town communities this week that bringing in the army to help combat gang violence was out of the question because it would turn those areas into war zones.
Relations between the premier and Mthethwa seem to have taken a knock given that Zille was not informed of his visit to the city with national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega.
“I heard about minister Mthethwa and General Phiyega’s visit through the media,” said Zille.
Mthethwa’s spokesman, Zweli Mnisi, said the minister was not obliged to inform Zille of planned visits.
“We didn’t come to her, we went to the communities. We go to them on a daily basis. The Western Cape is not an island and we don’t require special permission to go there.”
On the fact that the army had been deployed in Cape Town recently, Mnisi said they could no longer have a “fire extinguisher approach” in which the army was deployed every time something happened.
“What we’re looking for is a sustainable approach. We also need more community involvement. The army symbolises war and could scare the children in the communities. This mandate lies with the police.”
He said police intelligence was also a key aspect in the war against gangs. “Intelligence is not a group of people from Pretoria,” said Mnisi.
ANC provincial secretary Songezo Mjongile said the DA-led provincial and metro governments must play a bigger role in dealing with the “social ills and root causes” of gangsterism instead of just calling soldiers into residential areas.
Achmat Williams, leader of the National Party and a City of Cape Town councillor, also waded into the debate, saying the city and the province had their priorities twisted by “harassing” people for using cellphones on highways.
“The provincial and local government law enforcement agencies within the Cape metro region are very much visible and harassing and fining communities over cellphone usage on highways.
“It also appears now that there appears to be no shortage in manpower when they are doing and introducing these tactics on innocent family members,” said Williams.
Gang violence has claimed the lives of 23 people in the past six weeks in Cape Town.