Police Commissioner Phiyega’s proposals of force against gangs need clarity

Dan Plato, MPP

Western Cape Minister of Community Safety

I will today write to the National Police Commissioner, Riah Phiyega, asking for clarity and information with regards to her plans to introduce heavily armed members of the National Intervention Unit, Tactical Response Team and Public Order Policing Units to combat gang hotspots across the country.

Too many lives have been lost through gang warfare and for too long gangsters have held our communities hostage. The recent spate of innocent people being killed, especially children caught in cross-fire, cannot continue any longer.

While the Western Cape Government welcomes any action by the South African Police Services (SAPS) against gangsters, we question whether this deployment is the best solution available.

The units proposed are already thinly stretched due to continued protest action across the country, while the use of excessive force by these units could result in additional lives lost and not necessarily the needed arrest to get gangsters off our streets.

For this plan to be considered anything but a temporary appeasement Police Commissioner Phiyega needs to take these considerations into account and provide information on the unanswered questions that her plan evokes:

–        Where will these officers be redeployed from;

–        Which areas will be affected by a police shortage resulting from redeployment;

–        Which areas have been identified for these interventions;

–        For how long will these units be deployed; and

–        What long term measures are being considered to replace this short term intervention?

The Western Cape Government has been calling on the deployment of the army in gang hotspots as a peacekeeping force to free up police resources for investigations and arrests.

We need the specialised gang and drug units to be reintroduced, as is recommended by the National Development Plan (NDP).

These units possess the necessary resources and expertise to investigate and make arrests and come with a track record of success. Police Commissioner Phiyega recently boasted that since the re-establishment of the SAPS’s Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences specialised units four years ago, there were a combined 36 225 year imprisonments and 695 life imprisonments in combatting the heinous crimes against women and children. We need the same approach to achieve success in combatting gang violence.

Fighting violence with violence is not going to stop gangsterism. Getting gangsters off the streets will. Targeted and focussed intervention against gangsterism is required through the specialised gang and drug units, if we are to win the war on gangs.