The army has arrived

An army helicopter about to land in Beacon Valley.

A South African National Defence Force (SANDF) helicopter landed on the field, bordered by the backyards of houses, facing Hengelaar Street, Biljaart Street, Netball Crescent, Cricket Crescent and Judo Street on Saturday July 20.

Shakeelah Isaacs, 32, from Beacon Valley said it was a lovely experience, seeing the army helicopter flying over her house landing on the field next to her house. 

“I felt extremely happy seeing the army in our community in Beacon Valley, especially after what happened to me last week Friday (July 12),” she said.

A stray bullet landed in her 15-year-old daughter’s bed, when men opened fire on the field behind her home. The bullet had shattered her daughter’s bedroom window – thankfully no one was hurt.

Mitchell’s Plain SAPS spokesperson, Captain Ian Williams, said police were investigating a case of discharging of a firearm. No arrests were made and the suspect is unknown.

“I believe the army can make a difference in our country if the community stands together,” said Ms Isaacs.

“The army knows how to fight battles. They have been deployed to the communities of the Cape Flats to help us fight against gangsterism and drugs.

“I believe and respect the army, for the efforts they are putting in to make a change in our country,” she said.

The deployment of the army formed part of an integration of safety and security forces, including SAPS, traffic, law enforcement and the army, in “Operation lock down Mitchell’s Plain”, focusing particularly on Tafelsig, Eastridge and Beacon Valley between 6pm Friday July 19 and 3am Sunday July 21.

Captain Williams said they searched 21 premises, 173 vehicles and 389 people; there were five vehicle check-points; and 30 people were arrested. The arrests related to people being in possession of tik, mandrax, dagga and heroin.

There were also arrests for being in possession of an imitation firearm; three for public violence; theft from a motor vehicle; and two for being in possession of knives.

Abie Isaacs, Mitchell’s Plain Community Police Forum (CPF) chairman, welcomed the SANDF’s presence.

“We felt a bit safer, while they were in the area, executing raids,” he said.

Mr Isaacs said they would like the army to be stationed at the Tafelsig base camp, behind the Apostolic Church to deter further crime. “We’ve got the base camp, which was placed there because of Operation Thunder, there for a year now. We think it can be used as springboard for them to observe criminals and understand the frustrations of the community,” he said.

CPFs and neighbourhood watches from across the province are due to meet for a follow-up crime summit in Paarl this weekend.

The last one was on Saturday July 13 and Sunday July 14, where five commissions deliberated on what was missing in the fight against crime; the consequences of failing to addressing violent crimes; what societal preconditions were contributing to violent crime; what could be a more effective police service delivery within the justice and protection services cluster; how effective ways of crime reporting could be achieved, data capturing, analysis, and evaluation; and community involvement in the fight against violent crime.

Speaking to the Plainsman yesterday, Tuesday July 23, Brigadier Cass Goolam, Mitchell’s Plain station commander, said the SANDF had a huge impact by increasing mass and tactical capacity.

“They are the cover force for the police, in overcrowded areas; they keep the crowd at bay. They secure the environment for us to work in the community, so that we can revisit relations with the community at street level,” he said.

Brigadier Goolam said the police had specific tasks, which were in line with the current crime situation, to target specific houses, suspects and seize firearms and drugs.

He said the SANDF created an enabling environment, specifically in sub-economic areas, where poverty and overcrowding was rife.

“The target is gangs and drugs and we use the defence force to further our agenda.”

Brigadier Goolam said while the safety of the community was their responsibility, what is worrying was that the community created fertile ground for gangsterism.

“They protect their children who are involved with drugs and gangs,” he said. “They’re only responsive to the police when they become the victims,” he said.

Brigadier Goolam said two weeks ago he went to intervene in a stone-throwing matter, involving two groups of youth, who were incited by a parent. He said the mother told the youth “stone them” (the police car).

He said they had to withdraw because the environment was hostile and they could not put the safety of the children in danger.

Lynn Phillips, secretary of CPF, said they had been hard at work mending relations with the community structures and neighbourhood watches. “We have assessed and acknowledged shortcomings, sector by sector,” she said.

She said they would like to tap into the skills SANDF members are trained in, including peace-keeping and mediation.

“These skills can be transferred to the CPF in the community and them being in community will help us tap into this,” Ms Phillips said.

“We need the SANDF and SAPS on the ground, to get the arms, to go door to door,” she said.