Cape Town – Deploying the army in a "war operation" on the Cape Flats will only generate more fear in communities and not achieve the objective of rooting out gangsterism, in fact, it would make it worse.
This is the view of Gloria Oliver of Samekoms (Coming Together), which represents the communities of Bonteheuwel, Manenberg, Heideveld, Hanover Park and Zeekoevlei, and is driving an initiative called "Balls not guns" to uplift and develop communities.
Police Minister Bheki Cele, during a debate on the SAPS in Parliament on Thursday, said the SANDF would join a large police contingent to be deployed to crime hot spots in the province following a sharp increase in murders, especially on the Cape Flats. Of the 10 policing precincts where the highest murder rates were recorded, seven were in the Western Cape, according to the latest crime statistics.
"We'll go door to door, we'll collect every illegal firearm, we'll collect all criminals that we want, we'll collect all outstanding criminals that have been on bail and that is happening from two o'clock this (Friday) morning."
Oliver said: "People are all in shock this morning. This is the army, this is a war operation, it's not even normal policing.
"When you enforce this kind of military operation, the entire community is affected. You are not actually getting the gangster. Being authorised to go in home by home, every home is invaded.
"I spoke to someone in the army who called me this morning, who said they have already been dispatched. What is happening is that the police take them into the community to a checkpoint.
"The police, who are better trained to do this kind of work, stay behind. The army goes in on foot and they do all the searches going from door to door.
"So the police becomes ineffective in this kind of operation. The army is trained for a war situation and this is what they are claiming that this is.
"This is the same methodology as a state of emergency, even though they are not calling it that.
"My biggest problem is that the only way we have always responded in South Africa is through a military operation and there has never been a time when we have tried an alternative.
"Are they really going to solve the gangster problem because if they leave in a week's time, is anything going to change, are the gangsters going to be gone? Is that what they are saying through this operation. What is their objective?
"The community doesn't feel safer. It's just going to make things worse. They are just going to be there for a few days and it's going to go back to what it was so they are just wasting their resources.
"I am sure the gangsters have gone and they have already moved their stuff and gone into hiding because they get inside information. So the ones they want to get they are not going to get.
"The presence of the army just further manifests fear. We keep plastering over the cracks and the root of the problem is not being addressed.
"Every day new gangsters are born in our community because there is a brokenness in our community that needs to be addressed by all stakeholders to find sustainable solutions.
"The government can't do it alone, but the government doesn't listen and they just go ahead and make their own plans."
A researcher at UCT's Centre Of Criminology, Simon Howell, believes deploying the army in gang-affected areas will only escalate the violence, EWN reported.
“When you deploy the military into a civilian population it becomes questionable. They did this in Brazil in the favelas and numerous people died as a result. There’s evidence that this is not a good idea.”
SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke has previously maintained that combating and preventing crime are not part of the military’s skill set and the major reason why “we don’t do crime fighting”.
“We are soldiers and military training is different to police training. Crime is not in our domain and we try to avoid becoming involved in combating crime."
JP Smith, the mayoral committee member for safety and security, said on Friday: "The City welcomes the announcement of the deployment of additional specialised operations as well as the military to help stabilise those police precincts where communities have suffered greatly at the hands of gangsters and criminals.
"The crime stats in these communities have truly reached a state of emergency and threaten the stability and reputation of the city as a whole.
"We have said for some time now that it is not possible for the investments in social development interventions and infrastructure to help normalise the conditions in gang- and violence-affected communities if we do not first achieve stabilisation – in other words, the bullets must stop flying before clinics and libraries can stay open, social housing can be improved and the important normal functioning of the community can resume and investment and jobs can be attracted."
He also highlighted the Western Cape’s loss of 4 500 police officers over the past four years adding to the crime woes, which needed to be reversed.
Western Cape Premier Alan Winde welcomed the announcement that President Cyril Ramaphosa has authorised the deployment of the SANDF, but added that while the military presence would help buy some time, that time needs to be used properly to work out a lasting solution to the problem.
“We need to get the management right, we need to then make sure that there’s proper planning in place that shows us over time that if we lose this initial attempt with the military, that we bring calm and then we go through a process where we're really starting to deal with this gangsterism.”
Former Western Cape police commissioner Mzwandile Petros told EWN: “The stability is actually one phase of making sure that the Western Cape people are not only feeling safe but they’re safe.
"It needs to be an overall strategy of dealing with combating crime in the province and, of course, we need to know what we would be doing thereafter.”