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Cape Town - Don’t just come here for votes.
That was the comment of a Manenberg man as he watched a troop of ministers in the justice, crime prevention and security cluster – led by police chief Nathi Mthethwa – walk through Hard Livings gang territory.
The five ministers visited election “hot spots” on the Cape Flats on Thursday, hoping to encourage a peaceful climate ahead of elections.
Accompanying Mthethwa were Minister of State Security Siyabonga Cwele, Minister of Correctional Services Sbu Ndebele, Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and Minister of International Relations Nkoana Maite-Mashabane.
Arriving two hours late for their first stop at the Manenberg People’s Centre, the ministers abandoned their original itinerary and sped through red traffic lights, making it difficult for journalists to keep up.
Instead of stopping at Hanover Park as planned, the blue-light brigade headed to Siqalo informal settlement near Philippi. Violence has flared up there several times in recent months. During voter registration, an Independent Electoral Commission tent was set on fire, causing concern that voting may not proceed peacefully.
But Mthethwa said there were only about 10 hot spots in Cape Town, and that by election time there should be even fewer, thanks to his police deployment plan and walkabouts.
“We are going to areas we’ve been to before, just to assess them and make sure we have free and fair elections,” he said.
In Manenberg, Siqalo and Thabo Mbeki in Khayelitsha, residents expressed concerns about violence in their areas.
Mthethwa said the kind of “trouble” he was trying to prevent depended on the dynamics of each community.
“Here in Manenberg, the main problem is drug abuse and gangsterism,” he said. “The officers must go for the drug lords, those who are masterminds behind the enterprise.”
Premier Helen Zille has repeatedly called for the army to be brought in to stabilise gang-ridden areas, but Mthethwa said Zille did not understand the situation. “The army is trained to kill,” he said. “I don’t think bringing the army into the community should be first point of call.”
Mthethwa said that if the metro police and police resolved their rivalry and worked together, the ganglands would be better policed.