WATCH | Smiles all round as soldiers finally join the Cape Flats gang war
Exactly a week after police minister Bheki Cele said soldiers would be deployed on the Cape Flats, the first military vehicles rolled into the Cape Flats on Thursday.
Videos on social media showed troops who are part of Operation Prosper arriving in Manenberg, which has seen scores of murders amid escalating gang violence across the Cape Flats.
Around 5pm, the operation - with helicopter support - moved across Jakes Gerwel Drive to Hanover Park, where residents attempted to shut down several roads two weeks ago in an anti-crime protest.
Community members turned out to welcome the soldiers, who returned the smiles and waves from their Mamba and Casspir armoured personnel carriers.
In his budget speech a week ago, Cele said he and defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula had asked President Cyril Ramaphosa to authorise the deployment of the army to help police combat crime and preserve law and order.
In his state of the province speech on Thursday, Western Cape Premier Alan Winde said the army was needed because the SA Police Service had lost the war on crime in the province.
“In our oversight of 151 police stations, we discovered that this province has a shortage of 548 detectives, almost half of the detectives in our province have a caseload of dockets of 200 or more, when the ideal number is between 50 and 60," Winde told the provincial legislature.
“A shocking 57% of detective commanders and 48% of detectives have not even undergone the requisite training, while only 2% have had any specialist training.
"Our detectives are also working without the tools they need to do their job. About 71% don’t have informers and more than half of our detectives do not even have a firearm. I can assure you the gangsters have guns, many of them from the police’s own armoury.”
This was a reference to Christiaan Prinsloo, a police officer who sold at least 2,700 firearms handed in to the police for destruction to gang leaders on the Cape Flats.
Deputy state security minister Zizi Kodwa told reporters at parliament on Thursday that "if we don't deal decisively with gangsterism, it is likely to undermine the legitimacy of the state".
The director-general of state security, Loyiso Jafta, added: "If you allow it to mature then it starts corrupting law enforcement authorities, it starts corrupting the judiciary, it starts corrupting the legislature.
"Before you know it, you have a complete narco state and once that happens it is very, very difficult to reverse the effects of that."
Speaking to journalists at parliament on Wednesday, Mapisa-Nqakula warned Cape Flats residents not to provoke the army.
“Soldiers are not trained for crime control. They only know three Bs: the boot, the barrel and the bullet,” she said.
“I would pray, because sometimes criminals, when there is this kind of deployment, tend to provoke the soldiers. I really pray that there shouldn’t be that kind of situation.
She said whatever the army did during its three-month deployment to Cape Town's most violent gang suburbs would be within the parameters of what is allowed.
“We don’t expect that there will be excessive force used, but certainly when soldiers are provoked I think they tend to react in a particular way. I pray that people shouldn't do that,” she added.