Vehicles, unit to help fight gangs in Port Elizabeth
Campaign against lawlessness will also include ‘sorted out’ CCTV cameras in hotspots
"We are declaring war on druglords and gangsters."
Those were the words of premier Oscar Mabuyane and the province's top cops during a handover of new anti-gang unit police vehicles in Port Elizabeth.
The unit, though not yet officially launched, has started clampdown operations as part of efforts to combat northern areas gang activity.
Of the 13 vehicles, 10 branded police cars will be used by the anti-gang unit while three are earmarked for the Flying Squad.
All will be used in anti-gang operations.
Mabuyane, with provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Liziwe Ntshinga, mayor Mongameli Bobani and mayoral committee safety and security head Queenie Pink, visited the northern areas to talk to stakeholders about gangsterism.
The anti-gang unit deployment came less than a week after police minister Bheki Cele announced the military would be deployed in Cape Town as part of a stabilisation operation in gang-infested areas.
During the visit, the delegation called at Strelitzia Primary and Arcadia Secondary in Bethelsdorp.
Just hours before the delegation's arrival, eight stolen firearms were recovered from an alleged drug house during a raid.
"The government is taking action and we are asking you to help us get rid of crime and gangsterism," Mabuyane told pupils.
Asked about possible military deployment, Mabuyane said the current police deployment was sufficient.
"At a later stage we can revise this, but we are confident they [police[ are dealing with the situation," he said.
Mabuyane appealed to pupils not to traffic drugs or guns for the gangs.
"We are going to tackle gangsterism and we will eradicate it. They will be in jail.
"We want you to feel safe."
Ntshinga referred to pupils having to dodge bullets and said the vehicles were part of a commitment to keep the community safe.
Ntshinga said the new unit had already deployed 150 members from various police stations.
"We are working on getting the resources in place, which is why this unit is operational.
"Once the plans have been approved and signed by [the] national [department], the unit will be officially launched," she said.
The delegation also visited the 10111 centre.
Asked about CCTV cameras, Bobani said Mabuyane had ordered the municipality to ensure cameras were working.
No municipal CCTV cameras are operational but Bobani said cameras in hotspots would be working by Wednesday.
Asked how the municipality had managed to fix the cameras so speedily, Bobani said acting city manager Noxolo Nqwazi had ensured that Afrisec Strategic Solutions, which previously ran the CCTV system, had sorted them out.
The municipality cut ties with Afrisec in 2016 and instituted legal action against it for R92m it believed it was owed.
Bobani said the municipality had resolved its issues with Afrisec and the work was now complete.
"All they have to do now is switch on the cameras," he added.
Khoisan activist and ANC MPL Christian Martin welcomed the anti-gang unit.
"This is the greatest news since the release of Nelson Mandela.
"This is going to assist without a doubt," he said.
Arcadia principal Gregory Prince said the school had lost five pupils to gang violence.
"We are asking for a school that keeps bullets out and learners safe," he pleaded.
Prince said while the perimeter fence assisted in keeping gangsters out, the fence was being vandalised faster than it could be repaired.
"They [gangsters] cut holes in the fence so they can pass things to the children," he added.
Strelitzia Primary principal Clifton Jantjies welcomed promises his school would receive a new fence next week.
Jantjies said they had lost 250 pupils over the past 18 months as parents were too scared to send children to school.
– Additional reporting by Nazizipho Buso