THE difference between soldiers and cops is the basic function of a soldier is to kill, while a cop’s is to make an arrest, collect evidence and present it in court.
The call to deploy soldiers in gangster-affected areas of Cape Town is based on the perceived inability and/or unwillingness of police to get the crime situation under control.
It’s an emotional response to the increase in gang violence, drug dealing and hopelessness caused by lack of employment opportunities in the Cape Flats area due to decades of government neglect.
Sadly, putting poorly trained and ill-disciplined troops on the ground is a bad idea, which will create more misery than it can eradicate.
Far better to clean up the corrupt elements in the police, increase crime intelligence capabilities and operations, increase foot and vehicle patrols, employ SAPS QRF (quick reaction force) for fast, overwhelming support in shoot-outs, relentless investigations and prosecutions of gangsters, communicate effectively with the public and use a well-funded witness protection programme.
Ultimately, the success of any anti-crime initiative rests on tip-offs from the public, police integrity, quality of investigations, protection of witnesses, effective prosecutions, and trust between cops and residents, but most importantly on making crime seem less attractive by improving the region’s economy.
It’s impossible to expect somebody with four kids to take a minimum wage job which won’t cover one week’s living expenses if drug dealers can make more in a day than most people earn in months.
It’s desirable now, but deploying the army will only work until the first innocent person is arrested, tortured or shot by troops. After that, Baghdad will seem safer.
Fix the broken social fabric, secure the streets and schools.
Give the downtrodden valid reasons to hope and make them part of the solution – this is a civilian problem with civilian causes which the military is not trained to fix.
M Negres, Port Elizabeth