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Cape Town - Western Cape premier Helen Zille and national police commissioner Riah Phiyega faced off on Tuesday over the policing of gangs on the Cape Flats.
Zille, who sat in on a provincial legislature briefing by Phiyega, confronted her about her repeated request for the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to intervene in gang violence.
Zille said using the army to keep the peace would allow an already strained police force to gather evidence and do its job.
“Doesn't it make sense to support a peacekeeping force of the army to come in?” she asked Phiyega.
Phiyega replied that the solution was not that simple.
“The issues you are raising, premier, we must talk about sustainable solutions,” she said.
“Until we get to the point where we start talking about sustainable intervention to look at the root causes of the problems... we will continue in the process we are continuing.
“The issue of drugs and gangs is not just a policing matter, it is a socio-economic matter. It requires that we all intervene.”
Phiyega said the police were up to the task of protecting drug and gang affected areas.
She said it was because of the police that children had been able to return to 12 Manenberg schools which were recently closed for two days because of gang violence.
“Our jails are full because police are doing their work. Large sentences are being passed because police are doing their work.”
Mark Wiley, chairman of the standing committee on community safety, corrected Phiyega about her jail comment, and said prisons were overflowing, especially Pollsmoor Prison, because of a backlog in awaiting trial detainees.
Zille said she agreed with Phiyega that various bodies were responsible for addressing the root causes.
The Western Cape government had spent R84m on addressing substance addiction and abuse, she said.
However she disagreed about the Manenberg schools issue, and said children had been able to return only after the provincial government took R6m from the education budget and diverted 71 metro police officers.
“That wouldn't have been necessary had SANDF helped with peacekeeping patrols,” Zille said.
She questioned whether the commissioner's reason for not deploying the army was based on research.
Phiyega said parties should be careful to not politicise or personalise the issue at hand.
“As the police, our duty is to serve the nation and we use all information and data around us to design our service. We are not politicians, we are pure service providers for the nation,” she said.