Plato questions Phiyega's gang plan

Cape Town - Clarity is needed on police commissioner Riah Phiyega's plan to combat gang-related crimes, Western Cape Community Safety MEC Dan Plato said on Tuesday.

Plato said he had written to Phiyega for more information on plans to use "heavily armed" members of the national intervention unit and the public order police.

"While the Western Cape government welcomes any action by the SA Police Service against gangsters, we question whether this deployment is the best solution available."

He said these units were already thinly stretched because of protests.

Using excessive force could also result in more lives being lost instead of much-needed arrests, Plato added.

On Sunday, Phiyega announced in Port Elizabeth that she had heeded a provincial request to allocate more officers to deal with gang-related violence in Mount Road and Motherwell.

She said provincial police commissioner Betty Ngobeni on Friday had welcomed members of the national intervention unit and public order policing from KwaZulu-Natal and the head office in Pretoria.

These officers would work with local police officials to execute a provincial plan for the gang hotspots.

Plato wanted to know where officers would be deployed from, where police shortages would be felt as a result and how long these units would be deployed for.

Phiyega's spokesperson Solomon Mokgale said the duration of the officers' stay would be reviewed after some time and that no police shortages were expected.

Additional officers

Phiyega indicated in her speech on Sunday that she could not say how many additional officers would be deployed or reveal other details because it was "operational information" not normally made public.

However, she trusted that residents would soon see the positive results of the plan.

Plato questioned what long-term measures were being considered to fight gangsters.

He said specialised gang and drug units needed to be reintroduced as they had the necessary resources and expertise.

"Fighting violence with violence is not going to stop gangsterism. Getting gangsters off the streets will," he said.

"Targeted and focused intervention against gangsterism is required through the specialised gang and drug units, if we are to win the war on gangs."

Mokgale said there was a targeted intervention and prevention strategy for the Western Cape called Operation Combat.

The operation had ensured the conviction and sentencing of gang leader Saliem John, the conviction of 16 Fancy Boys gang members and major seizures of firearms and drugs.

The Operation Combat unit was made up of members of the public order policing unit, national intervention unit, tactical response team and detectives.

Mokgale said gangsterism was a challenge mostly in Gauteng, Free State and the Western and Eastern Cape.

With the exception of the Western Cape, gang activity was seasonal and flared up every now and then.

He said there were underlying socio-economic causes of gangsterism and social ills in these areas.

"The police have a vital role to play as visibility and arrests assist with bringing the situation under control but the police will find it extremely challenging to eradicate the problem due to the existence of deep-rooted socio-economic causal factors," he said.