Cape Town - The army must be deployed to deal with gang violence in parts of Cape Town, Western Cape premier Helen Zille said in an open letter to Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa on Wednesday.
“The SAPS needs help to restore order... and the presence of the army would give the police the space to conduct investigations and ensure gang members responsible for this violence are brought to justice,” she wrote.
Zille was responding to the news that 14 schools in Manenberg, Cape Town, would be closed for the next two days because of gang violence threats.
She said there had been a recent spike in gang violence.
Zille said she wrote to President Jacob Zuma in July last year to ask for the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to be deployed to bring gangs under control.
“Zuma responded that... he had concluded 'that there was no need to employ members of the SANDF' because the SAPS had the necessary capacity and had adopted a five-point strategy to deal with the situation in gang hotspot areas...”
She said her written request for more details of the strategy and its timeline was not answered.
Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille met Mthethwa recently to discuss gang violence, and reported to Zille that Mthethwa had undertaken to urgently liaise with the Western Cape government about the problem.
“To date, the Western Cape government has not been approached by you on this matter despite the gang crisis requiring interventions from all three spheres of government and section 206 (3) of the Constitution requiring provinces to conduct oversight over the police...”
Zille claimed she tried to contact Mthethwa to organise a meeting about the problem, but received no response.
“I have therefore decided to write an open letter to you repeating my request to meet with you urgently and for you to re-consider employing the army in Manenberg and other hotspot areas.”
Mthethwa's spokesman Zweli Mnisi said the ministry received a letter from Zille on Monday, and that confirmation of receipt was sent to her seven minutes after it was received.
“Now the issues she is raising are matters we have shared with her on our proposed approach, which are deeper than mere deployment of police or army as she has suggested.”
Mnisi said the strategy for rooting out gang crime needed to be multifaceted, and address the cause of the problem.
“We are opposed to the idea of deploying the army because that would be a short term solution.
“What we require is an integrated approach that involves communities, parents of suspected drug addicts, government, NGOs and all other relevant stake holders.”
He said De Lille had received this strategy “enthusiastically” in her meeting with Mthethwa.
The SANDF could not be reached for comment.