The DA needs to politicize crime for it’s survival

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Crime in the area has resulted in 130 matrics of Lavender Hill High being moved to write their exams elsewhere. Picture: Tracey Adams

The shenanigans in the DA- led City of Cape Town continue. Service delivery and fighting crime is far from a priority as the latest debacle about the appointment of senior officials, tasked with community safety in the City, continues to cloud and beset the City’s leadership. Yet it exposes the DA for what it really is: a party for the hypocrites. While it blames all and sundry for being corrupt, inept and inefficient, it outshines other metropolitans in its ability to be guilty of just these. 

However, while the Western Cape DA led administration and the City continue to fall over each other trying to find out who appointed who and who should not have been involved, the ANC led national government continues to prioritize service delivery and protecting the lives of our people. 

2 December marks one  month since the launch of the South African Police Service (SAPS) Anti-Gang Unit (AGU), headed by Major-General André Lincoln, in Hanover Park on the Cape Flats. The unit has been rolled out in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng while ensuring that the team is 95 members strong. So effective has the unit been that Police Minister, Bheki Cele, could report to Parliament that in just two weeks, over 50 arrests had been made. 

Launching the unit himself, President Cyril Ramaphosa could state that the unit with its strategy was crafted by the top echelons of the SAPS management with the minister and the commissioner of police, General Khehla Sithole, and the rest of the top police management. The president was clear that it meant that gangsters had only one destination: jail. It was “the end of the road of their terrorizing our communities” while stating that even though the strategy was crafted by the top management of the police,  it was very much a community-based strategy.

A community-based strategy is the only way that gangsterism and drug abuse in our communities can be confronted and defeated. It means that the approach must be street-levelled, involve community development, embrace conflict mediation and working with civil society, and community based organizations in order to reduce violence and crime. 

 

This is the kind of strategy that is alien to the DA -led province and City of Cape Town and it is therefore not surprising that we have had the upsurge of gang related violence on the Cape Flats in the last few years. Instead of empowering community organizations, all within the ambit of Section 206 of the Constitution of the Republic, the DA has weakened these community based organizations.

It is important to understand that not only is the launch of the AGU critical but equally important is the approach and the strategy adopted. Unlike the DA, the AGU insists on working with communities and their organizations rather than against them. For the AGU , a critical success factor is enhancing and encouraging local crime prevention strategies and crime combating,  whereas the DA renders community structures irrelevant. The contrast in the ANC national government’s approach, through this AGU strategy, and the DA’s way of dealing with community safety, especially in the results of the two strategies are like chalk and cheese.

The DA’s strategy has seen a weakening of community organizations such as Community Policing Fora (CPFs) and the closing down of the Bambanani Volunteer programme thereby escalating crime related to gangsterism and drugs to levels that the city and province have not experienced in decades. 

On the contrary, the ANC led national government’s approach, through the AGU, has yielded results within a month that are phenomenal. As mentioned earlier, within two weeks, over 50 arrests. In the last month, 108 arrests have been made in respect of crimes such as assault, possession of drugs and unlicensed firearms, attempted murder and murder. 

Since the launch on 2 November, there have been multiple seizures of illegal substances including cannabis, tik, heroine, mandrax, 30 illegal firearms and 560 rounds of ammunition. R64 000 has been seized, money which is believed to come from the proceeds of crime. I believe credit is also due to the AGU leadership for actually arresting two unit members and charging them for allegedly stealing during a raid. This demonstrates commitment to keeping the unit focused and getting rid of bad apples.

The past month has also seen an increased mobilization of communities in the fight against gangsterism. Instead of prioritizing fighting community activists, like the DA’s MEC does when he budgets R5 million to fight social unrest, the ANC national government has ensured that SAPS continues to work on building the trust with the communities. 

SAPS Provincial Commissioner, Major-General Khombinkosi Jula, has indicated that SAPS will be recruiting nearly 200 Reaction Unit personnel in the province so as to bolster the work of the AGU in the province specifically as well as to recruit a thousand new SAPS police members. This is police leadership at its best. Such steps will have even more impact when politicians work with the police instead of against the police, as the DA does. 

The re-launching of the Bambanani Crime Volunteer programme, by Minister Cele, is also imminent . It is hoped that this programme will specifically target communities, streets and schools so as to ensure that our children are safer while their parents are at work. This is how the ANC led national government fights gangsterism and crimes related to it. The results are there and tangible. 

In contrast again, the DA led provincial department of community safety has already failed to spend some R8 million and had to return the money to the Provincial Treasury. Yet in the face of this failure to use the money to support community organizations to keep our communities safe Provincial Treasury rewards the Department with another R26 million in the face of this failure to spend R8 million the first place. 

Even worst still is the fact that the DA did not utter a word of protest when the South African Police Union decided to take action against SAPS management because of the process to set up the AGU. A few weeks back Mayco member JP Smith had threatened an interdict about police numbers.  And then , shortly afterwards we have SAPU bringing an interdict about the AGU. Most telling was the deafening silence by newly appointed MEC for Community Safety, Alan Winde. Why did he not stand up and defend the AGU and condemn SAPU’s actions ?   Their decision to withdraw the interdict shows the hollowness of the union leadership’s motives. But the DA’s complicity exposes for all to see that the DA chooses to play politics rather than genuinely fight the scourge of gangsterism, crime and substance abuse. Instead, the DA stands accused of not fighting gangs but rather fighting against and causing divisions within the police.  

The establishment of gangs on the Cape Flats in particular was not an overnight occurrence. The apartheid regime, as heard through testimony at the TRC, systematically built up gangs, dumped drugs and weapons onto the Flats to pursue a specific social project. As the ANC, we have studied and are aware of this project. 

The deconstruction of the gang phenomenon will therefore also not happen in a day. As the ANC we are aware that the AGU is not a silver bullet; pardon the maybe inappropriate pun. Yet,  we are optimistic because the AGU comes with a strategy that puts our communities first and allows them to possess the power and take ownership of their own communities. Like apartheid, the DA disempowers our communities and our community organizations. Yet we have not seen such success as now being witnessed by the AGU since the days of the High Flyers Project of 2002-2009 in the Western Cape when the ANC governed. 

As a result, like in many areas of meaningful service delivery, the DA’s record for the last decade pales in comparison to the gang combative record and results of the ANC when it governed the Western Cape. The key difference was the ANC’s integrated, co-operative and community based approach to fighting crime and building safer communities.   

Cameron Dugmore is an ANC Member of the Provincial Legislature in the Western Cape.