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Cape Town - The army will not be sent to deal with 16-year-olds, said Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, in a clear reference to Premier Helen Zille’s call for the SANDF to help deal with gang violence on the Cape Flats.
Mthethwa was speaking on Tuesday at a ministerial imbizo held at Spine Road High in Mitchells Plain, attended by hundreds of residents who posed questions about drug abuse, gangsterism, crime, police corruption and low conviction rates of gangsters in the area.
Mthethwa said: “We are not sending the army to deal with 16-year-olds. We as parents need to deal with them, not only here in Mitchells Plain, but other areas too.
“Why do we have such crimes? Around 25 percent of people in Mitchells Plain are unemployed.
“The issue of youth and truancy; you are building a gangster if (your) children are not attending school. It starts there…
“As parents we need to play a role and intensify programmes and the need to have recreational facilities for children after school.”
He said police had arrested 4 976 suspects in connection with drug-related crimes since January.
“What is worrying is that 184 were children.”
Police closed 81 drug houses and secured 2 975 drug convictions in the previous financial year.
Anneliese van Wyk, chairwoman of the parliamentary portfolio committee on police, said communities needed to speak up and point out who the drug dealers were.
“Crime hits you hard on a daily basis – it is your children being hurt.
“We cannot have gang members paying children’s school fees and we can’t have them feeding our children. Where is social development? Role models are needed.”
Referring to allegations of police corruption, she said: “Police are the only things between us and chaos.
“Too often we hear complaints of police corruption. If a police officer is doing wrong, take his name and if he doesn’t wear a name tag we can track him down.”
JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security, said the city had spent R82 million on drug treatment clinics and R24m on programmes dealing with gang violence. “There are some serious issues we are facing, such as low conviction rates, and we need to get those figures up.”
Community Safety MEC Dan Plato said a lot of social issues needed to be addressed. “The people of Mitchells Plain have spoken and posed some serious issues and we need to act in a coherent manner.
“The convictions rate (of gangsters) is low. It is a major concern and we need deployment of the army in communities to assist.
“They (gangsters) shoot with live ammunition and get away with what they do.”