DA 'lighting fires' with calls for troops in Western Cape‚ says Cele

Police Minister Bheki Cele.
Police Minister Bheki Cele.
Image: Esa Alexander

The DA is stirring trouble with its repeated calls for army deployment in the gang-infested Cape Flats‚ says Police Minister Bheki Cele.

“Please stop marching and stop making crime a political ball‚” Cele told a media briefing on Thursday an hour before DA leader Mmusi Maimane led a march from Manenberg to Nyanga to call for the deployment of the South African National Defence Force.

Maimane’s match followed a letter to Cele on Wednesday from Western Cape Premier Helen Zille‚ calling on the minister to fulfil 2017 promises by his predecessor‚ Fikile Mbalula‚ to send soldiers to the Cape Flats.

But Cele said Mbalula’s pledge pre-dated Operation Thunder‚ the “stabilisation and normalisation” initiative he launched in May to target nine hotspots‚ and which he said had stabilised six of the areas.

“The people of the Western Cape don’t want the army‚ they want safety‚” he said. “If you give them visibility of the police and better safety‚ they will take that.”

And he said troop deployment could easily exacerbate violence and “create more hate between the government and the people”.

The Democratic Alliance held a march in Cape Town to call on the African National Congress to deploy the army into areas where gangs are tormenting neighbourhoods in the city. The march saw the party’s national leader Mmusi Maimane and Western Cape leader Bonginkosi Madikizela lead hundreds of protesters on Thursday July 19 2018.

“The police are trained to be softer when large numbers of people are in danger‚” he said. “They are the only ones to have that training.”

Despite Maimane’s claim that thousands of people would join Thursday’s march‚ Cele said he had visited Nyanga several times “and no-one there has called on me to deploy the SANDF”.

He said: “I hope [the DA] are not putting more fire on the problem of violence in the African townships.”

Instead of sending in the army‚ said Cele‚ “we’ll look at increasing police numbers and the number of units”.

He said Operation Thunder had already transformed some of the crime-ridden communities‚ and he had been invited to join a poverty-stricken Uitsig mother for a meal because she wanted to thank him for making the streets safe for her children to play after 6pm.

“She has nothing‚ but we will go there and share her nothingness‚” he said.

Operation Thunder‚ with almost 270 police officers‚ is operating in Mitchells Plain‚ Steenberg‚ Manenberg‚ Philippi‚ Bishop Lavis‚ Ravensmead‚ Uitsig‚ Elsies River and the Worcester suburb of Avian Park.

Cele said its three “base camps”‚ which operated round the clock‚ had dramatically improved police relationships with communities‚ and the number of crimes reported by residents had increased sharply.

Gang “high-flyers” who had been arrested included alleged hit men of the 28s and Hard Livings gangs and the alleged leader of the Laughing Boys in Hanover Park.

“In six of the areas we are almost there with stabilisation and now we move to reversal [of crime]‚” he said. But three areas had not been stabilised‚ and Operation Thunder — announced in May as a 90-day initiative — would continue until its objectives had been achieved.

Mitchells Plain was particularly problematic‚ and an upsurge in violence there meant murders had doubled since the operation began‚ compared with the same period last year.

“It’s one of the most hostile communities towards the police and towards the law generally‚” he said. But the problem went beyond law enforcement and included social issues and even the design of the suburb‚ something he said the police needed to discuss with the provincial government.

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