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Cape Town - Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Premier Helen Zille may have agreed “broadly that a holistic approach is important” in tackling gang violence in the Western Cape, but they differed on the role the police should play in tackling the problem.
Zille, Community Safety MEC Dan Plato, mayor Patricia de Lille, and mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith met Mthethwa “to discuss needed interventions to address drugs and gang violence” in hot spots.
“The Western Cape government maintains that gang violence spikes are a policing and security issue. Only the SAPS has the power to undertake collecting evidence, affecting arrests and ensuring convictions in court,” said Zille.
“We believe two critical interventions needed are re-establishing the specialised gang and drug police units, and the temporary deployment of the SANDF as a peacekeeping force so the police are freed up to investigate crimes and bring gang members to justice. This is what we raised with Minister Mthethwa.
“He refused and said that the police are already doing what is necessary to tackle gang violence in the province. However, he could not provide any solutions to address the current spike in gang violence or details of their gang strategy. Instead he argued that the main solution is to address ‘socio-economic conditions’.”
At Parliament, Mthethwa told reporters there was no need for the army to be brought in, that the reintroduction of specialised drug and gang units was not being considered and that gangsterism and drug abuse were rooted in “socio-economic” ills and needed a “multipronged approach”.
He said the national government, the Western Cape, and the City of Cape Town would join forces to curb gang violence in the province.
He told reporters agreement had been reached on a multidisciplinary approach” to deal with gang violence in Manenberg and murder and crime spikes in Nyanga and Worcester.
Several Western Cape schools had to shut last week because of fears that more children would be caught in crossfire between warring drug dealers and gangsters.
Zille has criticised the government before for refusing to deploy the army to Manenberg, which has been the scene of bloody gang battles.
Mthethwa said: “There is a meeting of minds, particularly at the leadership level, that what we are dealing with is something that is deep-seated… socio-economic problems which are affecting all of us.”
Mthethwa said police officers were out and about in Manenberg and had stabilised the situation. “There were misgivings from the provincial government… about the soldiers not being around. We said no.” Soldiers could not have as “their main issue” dealing with crime.
De Lille said: “There’s certainly a meeting of minds at national, provincial, and local government that something drastic has to be done to deal with the scourge of drugs and gangsterism in the City of Cape Town.
“We agree that the approach to deal with gangs and drugs is not just a response of safety and security, but it must be a multidisciplinary approach, including social development, health and other departments within government.”
The City of Cape Town and the Police Ministry would jointly meet those affected by the violence.
“I’m hopeful we’ll see us going out together to give that hope to the community,” said De Lille.
“Soon, in consultation with the minister’s office, we will be moving into those key hot spots in the Western Cape, especially Cape Town.”