Govt-community approach needed

GANG violence in Port Elizabeth’s so-called northern areas is rapidly approaching insurgency levels and it’s only a matter of time before the creation of alternative government structures run and financed by criminals like in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas.

To combat it, we need a modern counterinsurgency approach driven by a government-citizenry partnership in which both local and national military, law enforcement, intelligence and economic resources are brought to bear in order to deny gangsters the recruits, operational structures and power bases they need.

The toughest and most capable force of counterinsurgency experts that’s ever been seen on the African continent is gone. Left behind is a nightmare of laziness, cowardice and paint-bynumbers thinking that trains less, has poorer unit cohesion, equipment and intelligence capabilities than the gangsters.

“But I want proof,” you’ll say. Okay, here it comes.

In 2001, only five out of 450 recruits in my army unit had the loyalty, dedication, ruthlessness and toughness you require. One was so abused and traumatised by his psychopathic platoon sergeant that he lost faith in democracy, became a neo-Nazi and asked a friend for training as private sector assassin.

His trainer and would-be handler (another of the five) was under surveillance by military intelligence for months due to baseless accusations of espionage. He was abused, rejected and hounded to the point of attempting suicide rather than be dishonoured by false charges he couldn’t fight, and left SANDF.

Another two left after their IMS (one-year initial military service) contracts ended. The fifth is the only one left in this country’s service, currently suffering false accusations of racism, short pay, no pay for months on end, career sabotage and other indignities no patriotic warrior should ever endure.

As for SAPS in Port Elizabeth, I knew six cops. One is in an elite unit, another left to work overseas, the third was so harassed by fellow cops as to side with gangsters and ultimately got arrested for corruption.

Two were once voted the best team in Port Elizabeth but their achievements have been ignored for the last decade by higher-ups, while I lost track of the sixth.

Of these six, I can trust two or three – maybe. Now imagine the problem Helenvale residents have when deciding whether to approach the cops or not, especially after it was revealed 38 state witnesses had been assassinated in the last 12 months because SAPS didn’t protect them.

Crime is a social problem which needs an umbrella solution that involves the government, private business sector and citizens working to restore local security, improve the economic situation and thus negate the factors inducing teens to join gangs. In the case of our northern areas, the relationship between citizens and government is dysfunctional, and the counterinsurgency approach needed to tackle the gang problem will fail, due in large measure to destructive policies and toxic leadership of SAPS and SANDF which make trusting the state security apparatus suicidal.

This needs to change if we’re ever to fight, never mind win, the war on crime.

M Negres, Port Elizabeth