ENGAGEMENT: Khoi chief Hamish Arries, right, asks a question of Police Minister Bheki Cele, centre, who
hosted a community meeting in Mitchells Plain. Picture: Tracey Adams/ African News Agency/ANA.
Cape Town - Police Minister Bheki Cele says the army will not be deployed to gang-ravaged communities in the Western Cape as he fears this will turn communities into war zones and lead to the deaths of innocents.

Cele was speaking at a community engagement on gang violence in Mitchells Plain on Thursday attended by hundreds of residents.

Cele said: “I am a soldier. I was trained in the (bush warfare). I trained to be militant. Even though I was not trained in our country, I will remain a soldier for life. But I was never trained to control crowds, I was never trained to do arrests and make arrests in communities. We were trained to combat. We were trained and worked in environments that were war-torn. These were war zones and I am sure we don’t want that.

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“The army is not needed for the moment. We have brought 269 extra members. We have brought extra-hard units to deal with criminals. We are not declaring war, so we not going to bring them here. The army cannot be used to act as the police We have brought in units to deal with all types of situations, so for now, we are dealing with this situation.”

He said corruption within the police’s own ranks was also being tackled.

“We know that corruption is a massive problem in our country. The police are not exempt. But we have arrested more than 17 officers who were involved in criminal activities.”

Cele also called on the communities to help police in fighting crime.

Jeremy Veary, provincial deputy commissioner for detective services, said poverty was directly linked to gangsterism.

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“We have been sitting with this problem for hundreds of years. We have hundreds of prisoners who are serving life sentences. These are people who are not interested in rehabilitation. We have people who see the prison gangs as their only social connection. They have power through these gangs. They govern communities.”

But Veary said they were disrupting gang networks. “We did it in Atlantis and in Worcester. We are taking out a number of gang members and we are building cases against all of them and locking them up. But we need to stop treating prisons and gangsters as a sub-structure. They are part of the communities.

“It is our uncles, grandfathers and sons. It is families that need to take control of things. I cannot police your child acting like a gangster to another child.”

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Cape Argus