Police Minister Fikile Mbalula on Tuesday appealed to the SANDF to support the police in combating crime in Gauteng and the Western Cape, “two of the most crime stubborn provinces”, his office said.
“When I visited the community of Elsies River, one community leader referred to the mayhem caused by gangs as acts of terrorism. I want to tell the people of Elsies River that I heard them, and I'm acting,” Mbalula said in a statement.
“We will never fail our people, we will squeeze the space for criminals, and we will liberate our people from prisons of fear.”
Brigadier-General Mafi Mgobozi, spokesperson for the SANDF, said although they had not yet been given any orders, they were ready and waiting.
“The president of the country has the authority to give the order. We have seen the request made by minister Mbalula, but there has not been anything formal. Our minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, is in talks with Mbalula. We are ready and waiting to be deployed to the provinces.”
If the request is successful, the troops will primarily be deployed in gang-infested communities in Cape Town, while in Gauteng they will be “broadly” deployed.
Western Cape Premier Helen Zille welcomed the response by Mbalula to her announcement that SANDF intervention would be placed on the provincial cabinet agenda.
She said it was “a step in the right direction”, but a more permanent solution needed to be found.
But Mbalula’s spokesperson, Vuyo Mhaga, said there was currently no intention to work with provincial government.
“There's one police force and one defence force, and they are at national level. That is where we will be working. We've not acted on the request or announcement of politicians who don't understand crime fighting. Whatever the premier does, has nothing to with us or crime fighting,” he said.
Community policing forums (CPF) from some of Cape Town's most violent areas have welcomed Mbalula’s request for the SANDF.
Rusanda Pascoe, chairperson of the Manenberg Safety Forum, said deploying troops might quell the situation momentarily, but warned that a longer-term solution was needed.
“We need to address the social issues. There are political figures who are using this issue to grandstand and claim some sort of victory. The provincial government should focus on the social issues in the community. They have created a climate where all these problems will thrive. The national government should focus on deploying more police to gang-infested areas. While these two beasts fight it out, we in communities suffer,” Pascoe said.
Abie Isaacs, CPF chairperson in Mitchells Plain, said the deployment of troops was long overdue.
“We need to put the deployment of our troops into perspective. They are only there to provide a support role to police, unless otherwise instructed. The army will act as a deterrent and strengthen the police. I implore President Jacob Zuma to speedily consider the request,” he said.
Spokesperson for the Presidency Bongani Ngqulunga said: “The request to deploy troops has not been received by the Presidency. It will be processed and considered when it has been delivered.”