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Opinionista

The DA cannot claim credit for anti-gang unit successes

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Faiez Jacobs is an ANC MP, Greater Athlone constituency.

There is a well-used adage that says truth is the first casualty of war. This saying holds true for elections as well, as the biggest of the opposition parties in Parliament, the DA, in a desperate attempt to hold on to its dwindling support, outdoing itself by brazenly claiming victories that do not belong to it.

An example of this is how the DA plays politics with the deadly issues of gangsterism, drugs and organised crime, which threaten the future of the Western Cape. In November 2018, when Police Minister Bheki Cele launched the anti-gang unit, the DA vociferously opposed its establishment. The party, with the South African Policing Union and other right-wing organisations, attempted to stop its establishment after spending years calling on the SAPS for its founding.

Then, after being called out for their double standards, Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith rather arrogantly slammed the introduction of the anti-gang unit as “too little, too late”. True to form, after seeing its immediate successes, the DA flip-flopped and tried to claim its victories.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane tried to hijack the anti-gang unit’s good work when his party chose Bonteheuwel on the Cape Flats as the launch pad for its 2019 Western Cape voter registration drive earlier in January.

He claimed: “When the ANC government refused our demands for a special anti-gang unit, we did it ourselves in the City of Cape Town, under the leadership of JP Smith. And finally, years later, they realised that it was the right thing to do, and re-introduced the specialised unit.”

What a distortion! What opportunistic sophism, to try and turn an untruth into a DA achievement.

Our people know the truth and they are not fooled. They know that that this so-called gang unit in the City of Cape Town was unconstitutional and illegal as policing is a national policing competency that falls under SAPS. Be that as it may, this illegal unit, or Smith’s private army, has had no success in dealing with gangsterism, drugs and organised crime.

In fact, according to the former mayor Patricia de Lille, her resistance to the illegal establishment of this unit was one of the main reasons for her fall-out with the DA. Furthermore, numerous councillors close to her have indicated that this unit was, in fact, a surveillance element also used to illegally spy on politicians.

Rather than celebrating, partnering and supporting an intervention by the SAPS to establish an anti-gang unit, which it claims was its idea, the DA has once again exposed itself as not being interested in addressing gangsterism, drugs and organised crime. Instead, it has once again chosen to politicise the issue and oppose a very good intervention.

More worrying is that it is beginning to lay bare its real intentions. Its real purpose under the leadership of the mayor and former MEC for community safety Dan Plato, as well as the present MEC for Community Safety Allan Winde and Smith, is to protect and support the gang leaders and Cape Town’s underworld characters.

History indicates that this has always been the hallmark of the DA’s electoral strategies. It is therefore not coincidental that historical trends show that gang violence and swart gevaar always increase during an election year in the Western Cape.

Furthermore, a deeper interrogation of the DA’s approach to fighting crime over the past 10 years indicates a systematic breakdown of integrated crime-fighting strategies that saw a drastic reduction in organised crime and gangsterism during the 2000s.

As MEC for Community Safety, Plato refused to work with the provincial heads of the various national provincial crime-fighting departments such as the SAPS, NPA, Justice, Asset Forfeiture Unit and the State Security Agency. In doing so he spurned an approach introduced by the ANC when it was in power in the Western Cape and which was part of the reason for serious and violent crime falling in the period 2002-2009.

The DA also stopped funding for neighbourhood watches, street committees and local NGOs and community-based organisations that were running critical and successful programmes in the most vulnerable of communities. They cut the funds of community police forums and limited their role to oversight of the SAPS only. In the past, on the ANC’s watch, community police forums performed oversight as well as co-ordinated community and civil society involvement in crime fighting and social crime prevention, which also contributed to the reduction of serious and violent crime including gangsterism and organised crime.

This money was relocated to the historically middle-class white areas to increase security programmes there through the city improvement districts and private security companies.

The DA also used this funding to employ known gangsters as so-called mediators on the Cape Flats as a reward for their support during elections. Thus the very same gangsters who participated in gang violence were paid by the DA provincial government to mediate their own conflict.

Not only was this project immoral, unethical and corrupt, but it also created a perverse incentive for the gangs to prolong the conflicts they were paid to mediate.

Furthermore, as part of his corrupt quid pro quo with the criminal underworld, Mayor Plato embroiled himself in propaganda campaigns to smear senior SAPs members such as Jeremy Vearey and disrupt the operations whenever the SAPS were on the verge of breakthroughs against the leadership of the Cape underworld.

It is therefore not surprising that the former senior DA politician and Western Cape police commissioner Lennit Max resigned from the DA out of pure frustration. He said:

It is clear that the people of the Western Cape are good enough only to serve as voting fodder for the DA, but not deserving of a safe environment to live in… Crime fighting should not be politicised and there is no place for the different spheres of government to score own goals or to be in competition with each other, but to join hands and to share resources instead.”

The DA leadership is squirming as its association with Cape Town’s gang and organised crime underworld is being exposed. It will learn the hard truth of Abraham Lincoln’s lesson:

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”

As it begins to shed its sheepskin and exposes itself for the wolf that it is, we are confident that when ballots are cast in 2019 voters of the Cape Flats will punish them.

Indeed, as confirmed by most research studies and recent by-election results, the majority of voters will place their trust in and cast their ballot for the renewed ANC.

This ANC, represented by our President Cyril Ramaphosa, is respected for honesty, integrity, commitment and action to a new dawn for all South Africans, and not just the privileged few.

This ANC is also in charge of the police at a national level. Given the DA’s cosy links with the security guard industry, gangs and those figures operating on the wrong side of the law, we are not surprised that it wants to place SAPS in the Western Cape under its control.

The question is who will benefit in the unlikely event that it gets its wish? Surely not the Cape Flats communities being dogged by criminals? DM

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