OPINION

Deploy the army to Cape Town’s gang hotspots – Mmusi Maimane

DA leader says it is the President's duty to protect people from crime and criminals

Do your duty, Mr President, and deploy the army to Cape Town’s gang hotspots

19 July 2018

My fellow South Africans,

Our country is under siege by criminals. Across South Africa we are losing the fight against crime, and we are losing it because the ANC has no incentive to deal with crime.

Some even receive money from the proceeds of crime – whether from cash-in-transit heists or from the illegal cigarette trade – and they escape prosecution by buying favours. One of the cash heist kingpins who was recently arrested was not only an ANC employee at Luthuli House, but also an elected ANC branch secretary.

Our crime-stricken communities have been failed by the ANC nation-wide, but we are gathered here in Cape Town today because the people of Phillippi, Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain, Mannenberg, Nyanga and many other neighbourhoods are suffering particularly badly.

Your government has a duty to protect you from crime and criminals. It says so in our Constitution. Your right to freedom and security is one of the very first things mentioned in the Bill of Rights.

And this right applies to each and every person in this country. Not only those who support the ruling party. Not only those who live in provinces governed by the ruling party. All South Africans.

This is affirmed in the President’s oath of office. And while President Ramaphosa might believe that his first duty is to unify the ANC, the oath he swore was to “protect and promote the rights of all South Africans”.

Why is it then that the people of the Western Cape are treated differently?

Why must people across the City of Cape Town live in fear of gangs and violent crime every day without getting the same police resources as the rest of the country?

Why must this community here in Nyanga – the murder capital of South Africa – share one police officer between 628 residents while the average for the country is one officer for every 369 people?

Why is it that the entire City of Cape Town, at one officer per 560 people, has far fewer police than the rest of South Africa?

And why has Cape Town’s ratio deteriorated so much since 2016, when it was one officer per 439 people?

There’s only one plausible explanation: The ANC has politicised crime. The ANC has decided to use your safety and your lives as political pawns. They are punishing you for the choices of the people of Cape Town and the Western Cape.

You are angry and frustrated at having to live in fear of criminals, and they are hoping that you will turn this anger towards the DA instead of them.

The truth is that provincial and local governments have no control at all over SAPS resources. They have no say over how many officers get deployed or where they get sent. This is entirely up to national government.

The ANC hopes that you don’t know this, and so they play this terrible game while you and your families suffer at the hands of violent criminals.

The only way they will stop this is if you stand up and tell them to. Every Cape Town community that has been deliberately under-resourced by SAPS must add their voice and demand their rightful protection.

And let me also be clear on one thing: Today is not an attack on SAPS in Cape Town. Police officers in the city work extremely hard under very trying circumstances to curb rampant crime. But these officers are being failed by their management and the Police Ministry by deploying only half the number required.

One way to help protect these communities from the onslaught of gangs and drug dealers is to deploy the army to assist the police.

This is entirely within the President’s powers. Section 201 of our Constitution gives him the authority to send the army in to areas where SAPS need help. This has been done elsewhere in the country, but not here in these communities that suffer the worst crime.

And let me be clear on this: I’m not asking for the army to replace the police here. I’m not calling for the militarisation of our neighbourhoods. I’m talking about the temporary deployment of the army to supplement SAPS so that they can concentrate on investigating crimes and making arrests.

The role of the army would be very clearly defined. They would assist with blockades during SAPS operations, they would escort emergency medical services, they would protect infrastructure like railway lines, taxi ranks and bus stations, and they would help secure school commuter routes, clinics, social development offices and other essential services.

There is no logical reason at all to refuse this. In fact, less than a year ago the ANC government pledged to deploy the army to Cape Town’s worst gang and drug areas.

On three separate occasions then Minister Fikile Mbalula promised the people of these communities that the army would be deployed to help keep them safe. In November he sat in the Philippi East police station and said:

It is going to happen. We are processing it in terms of operational plans. Thereafter, the president will give us the green light. It will happen before Christmas.”

But Christmas came and went, and there was no sign of the army. And suddenly he was no longer Police Minister, and his replacement Bheki Cele was telling us there would be no army deployment.

Why not? Why make a promise to the people only to break it a few months later?

Because it is not in the ANC’s interest, that’s why. The safety of the people who live in these gang-infested areas of Cape Town matters less to this ANC government than the political points they can score from the people’s fear and anger.

And while 628 people here in Nyanga must share one police officer, the ANC’s inner circle who enjoy the protection of the Presidential Protection Unit have 81 police officers per person.

You don’t have to accept this, my fellow South Africans. You have the same Constitutional rights as every other citizen of this country. You have the right to the protection of your government. You have the right to demand fair allocation of police resources, and you have the right to demand the deployment of the army, as was promised to you.

If you claim these rights and your government still refuses, then you have the right to replace this government with one that will serve you. One that will take a zero-tolerance approach to crime.

A DA government would overhaul policing by introducing three key pillars of reform: localise, professionalise and specialise.

First, we would localise SAPS budgets and management authority. This would allow police to form local safety partnerships with, for example, neighbourhood watch groups and enable them to implement customised policing strategies.

Second, we would professionalise the police. We would recruit competent and experienced, leadership and promote them on merit. We would provide adequate training and equipment, and we would introduce stronger accountability measures, such as body-worn and vehicle cameras for on-duty cops, and CCTV surveillance cameras in police stations.

Third, we would introduce specialised units to address criminal activities that require expert knowledge, dedicated intelligence and special equipment. These would include Rural Safety Units, Anti-Hijacking Units, Anti-Gang Units, and Border Security Units.

This is what it will take to make our country safe. We won’t put a stop to criminals by tinkering with a failed plan. We need a new plan. We need total change.

Thank you.

Issued by Mmusi MaimaneLeader of the Democratic Alliance, 19 July 2018