Media release: Premier questions deployment status of all WC policing units
The Western Cape Government has issued a formal demand for clarity on the deployment status of all policing units operating within the province.
Premier Helen Zille was informed of concerns amongst Manenberg residents that visible policing had actually declined during the gang violence that has raged on in the community since 31 March.
On Friday morning, provincial Commissioner Khombinkosi Jula’s office was contacted through Community Safety Minister Dan Plato, who conveyed the demand for a deployment status update on behalf of the provincial government.
“Manenberg residents say they are not feeling the presence of the police, and we take this perception very seriously. We understand that many arrests have been made over the last 2 weeks, but we are concerned that SAPS do not have what it takes to combat the violence in Manenberg,” said Premier Zille.
Premier Zille said the status of Operation Combat was of particular concern to the province.
“We want clarity on how Operation Combat was reportedly disbanded, and then reinstated within a single week. Manenberg residents also report a decline in Tactical Unit officers within the community.”
The provincial government has said it will not support any discontinuation of Operation Combat until dedicated SAPS units are deployed to fight gangs on the cape flats and surrounding areas. The mandate for policing rests solely with national government, with the province being granted oversight powers by the Constitution.
“The under-resourcing of Western Cape SAPS by its Pretoria operational command, and the Police Ministry, is a national disgrace,” said Premier Zille. “Residents are living under terror. There are brave police officers actively combatting gang violence, but they are risking their lives without any high level support. The lack of policing resources is an act of sabotage that is costing lives.”
The province had previously received figures from SAPS showing a ratio of just 1 police officer to 504 residents in Manenberg. In neighbouring precincts where violent crime levels are some of the highest in SA, there were as many as 777 residents to 1 officer. The national average is 358:1.
The Western Cape Government has made repeated calls for the reintroduction of specialised SAPS gang units, most recently promised by President Jacob Zuma in his 2016 State of the Nation Address after their disbandment by national government over a decade ago.
On 19 February this year, Minister Plato wrote to the Minister of Police, Nathi Nhleko, Acting National Police Commissioner Khomotso Phalane, and Western Cape Commissioner Jula, requesting an update on the new gang units promised by President Zuma. There has been no response to date.
On 13 April, however, Minister Nhleko was in KwaZulu Natal where he launched a new SAPS unit to combat gang violence in Kwamashu.
“The question is why can the Minister not do the same in the Western Cape? He is well aware of the high levels of violent crime caused by gang activity in our province,” said Premier Zille.
The City of Cape Town has deployed their Law Enforcement Stabilisation Unit to Manenberg and other affected areas. The unit has a record of success in quelling gang violence since its introduction in August 2015, but the support of a well-resourced SAPS is needed.
“We expect the Police Minister’s urgent response to this situation. Our government will not rest until we see gang units reinstated in affected areas, and we will explore every legal means at our disposal to do so.”
The Premier said her office had further been informed last week of misinformation spread amongst Manenberg residents that she had personally called for the withdrawal of SAPS units deployed to deal with ongoing gang violence. This absolute falsehood is believed to have been spread by local political actors attempting to gain from ongoing human suffering in Manenberg.