Mitchell’s Plain residents have welcomed the army’s deployment with mixed feelings.
On Thursday July 11 Minister of Police Bheki Cele announced during his department’s budget speech that the defence force would be deployed in the top 10 contributing murder stations in the Western Cape, namely Nyanga, Delft, Khayelitsha, Philippi East, Harare, Gugulethu, Mfuleni, Kraaifontein, Mitchell’s Plain and Bishop Lavis.
He said the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and the South African Police Services (SAPS) would cordon off and search strong points in hot spots and do observation, foot and vehicle patrols.
“They will also provide air support for trooping and identify substance manufacturing labs as well as any other operations that may be determined from time to time,” Mr Cele added.
Neighbourhood watch member Moegamat Jappie, from Rocklands, said he did not have a problem with the deployment of the army.
“They are here to do a job. They are here to oversee because SAPS don’t have the resources to do the job themselves. They are here to protect the citizens of the Cape Flats,” he said.
Ghasan Woodman, 43, from Tafelsig, said the defence force was needed to protect the children. He was, however, concerned about its implementation. “What if you are coming from your friend’s house after 10pm, when you should be indoors and the army shoots to kill?” he asked.
Melanie Katanga, 39, from Tafelsig, said the army was too late. “Things have gotten worse. They did not see the need to come sooner,” she said.
Abie Isaacs, the Mitchell’s Plain Community Police Forum (CPF) chairman, said base camps had been set up by police in Tafelsig as part of Operation Thunder, a national intervention aimed at rooting out gang violence and other serious crimes on the Cape Flats, in July last year (“Back to base(e)ics”, Plainsman, August 1 2018) and that the facilities were available for the army.
“For many years, we have been saying no (to the deployment of the army) but due to the pressure from the community, from our community structures, we know that the police cannot do it alone,” he said.
Mr Isaacs said the soldiers had already been in the Western Cape since Friday July 12 and that they were completing urban terror training.
“The community has been under attack. The police themselves have been attacked. Ambulance services have been delayed because they need police escort to certain areas, like Tafelsig.
“We call this a direct attack on the state, and who best to deal with this attack, with firearms, than the SANDF, who are best to protect the state,” he said.
Mr Isaacs said residents should not fear the militarising of Mitchell’s Plain but rather welcome the safety and security, the soldiers’ presence would bring.
He also said Mr Cele had heard their cries and that other safety measures would be put in place following the weekend’s community safety summit, in Paarl, which Premier Alan Winde and Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz also attended.
It is also where the trio pledged to work together with the community.
Mr Isaacs said it was important for all spheres of government to work together and that all departments were on board to ensure the community’s safety.
Mr Winde said gang warfare was out of control. “The current situation is unprecedented, and we need to be taking unprecedented steps to ensure that people are safe. It is time to get drastic. We have to use every tool at our disposal.”
While Mr Cele announced that 143 arrests were made during operations in Philippi, Steenberg and Delft on Thursday night for crimes including murder, attempted murder, unlawful possession of firearms and ammunition, and possession of drugs, Mr Winde said on Monday July 15 that 43 murders had been recorded in Cape Town by forensics services over the weekend.
Bianca Capazorio, spokesperson for Mr Winde, said one of the murders was a stabbing incident while Captain Ian Williams, spokesman for Mitchell’s Plain police station, said they were investigating two gang-related murders, which took place within hours of each other on Friday July 12.
He said in the one incident, a man died from multiple gunshot wounds in Hazeldene Street, Portland, where police retrieved 31 9mm caliber cartridges at 3.59pm. In the other, the body of a woman, 37, was found with gunshots wounds in her back and right arm, in Austin Street, Beacon Valley, at 11.55am.
“The motives are gang-related. No one was arrested,” said Captain Williams.
SANDF spokesman Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi told the Plainsman that their main task was to support SAPS.
“We are not coming to take over. We are here to support the police,” he said.
Brigadier General Mgobozi said they were trained to “shoot to kill” but also how to resolve situations. “This is why members are completing mission readiness training, specifically on the rules of engagement, including deployment drills and operation orientation in different areas,” he said.
He said soldiers could not be deployed without knowing how to handle a situation.
Brigadier General Mgobozi said they would be behind the police, so they (the police) do not have to look over their shoulders when doing their jobs.
“We will make sure we know our work and that the defence force knows its purpose, so when the area is cordoned off, the police do not have to look behind, and fear a threat,” he said.
He could not specify where and when the soldiers would be deployed but said that it would be done as soon as possible.
Anyone with information about the gang related murders under investigation is asked to contact investigating officer, Detective Constable Jesse Phillips, from Mitchell’s Plain police station’s Serious and Violent Crimes Unit, on 082 777 8076.