The announcement yesterday of the Western Cape Minister for Community Safety of a programme aimed at the youth of predominantly gang-infested areas, should be exposed for what it really is.  Hennie Bester is making himself guilty of the cheapest and lowest form of politicking by abusing a real and very serious problem plaguing the everyday lives of a large section of the community, to score cheap political points.

For more than a year now the UDM has been pleading with the Provincial government of the Western Cape and the National government to give attention to the gang problem in the Western Cape.  We have asked for an integrated approach that would provide lasting solutions that would change what has become a way of living.  These calls, the desperate cries of the affected communities and the many deaths of innocent victims, many children, have fallen on deaf ears.

Now, twenty days before the Municipal Government Elections, the Provincial Minister for Community Safety, Hennie Bester, announces an artificial, shallow so-called programme to address this problem.  Mr Bester should realise that the people whom he tries to dazzle are victims of vicious acts of gangs and not stupid!  The short-term, election driven approach will not provide the lasting solutions that are desperately needed.

We plea with the Provincial Minister to handle this 30 year old problem with the respect and seriousness it deserves.  A multidisciplinary approach is what is needed.  An alternative lifestyle for gangsterism needs to be put in place.  From time to time the authorities win the battle against gangs, but never the war!  This is a repetition of the same scenario.  It is short-sighted to think that you can come in, temporarily reduce the level of crime, leave and consider the problem to be solved.

If Mr Bester is serious about finding a lasting solution, not one aimed at electioneering, then we urge him to reconsider his approach and demonstrate his sincerity.  A lasting solution will include: 

1. The Department of Safety and Security: on an ongoing basis through visible policing and intelligence gathering.
2. The Department of Education: should play a leading role in developing within the minds of learners an alternative to gangs.  They should also embark upon teaching learners and the community non-violent alternative conflict solution skills.  The Department should also involve itself in skills developing programmes for young adults who have left school.
3. The Department of Trade and Industry: Gangs becomes not only a way of living but also a way of making a living.  Enterprise Development programmes should be established in the communities that would allow for alternative and legal opportunities for generating income.  This is a desperate need that should contribute to the upliftment of the entire community.
4. The Department of Sport and Recreation and the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology: An assessment of the recreational activities of these areas must be done and a study conducted to determine the requirements and needs of the communities involved.  Are there facilities and are they sufficient, or were they put there because somebody somewhere decided this is what the communities want?
5. The Department of Public Works: Look at public work projects that ought to be implemented in these communities, with a view of improving infrastructure and creating jobs.
6. The Departments of Health and Welfare: for the obvious contributions that they will be able to make in terms of counselling and health training with regard to issues such as substance abuse, AIDS and teen pregnancy. 
7. Local Government: must be involved since it is the level of Government that is the closest to the community and in many ways are best placed to assess the true needs of the community.

The UDM is sure that there are even more Departments that can and should get involved.  However the overriding determining factor should be the involvement and acceptance of the community and organised community structures such as churches.

Hennie Bester's "election ploy" will end up being another problem at which money is thrown, but no lasting results achieved.  For the communities involved live is no different than 30 years ago.  If Hennie Bester is sincere about his efforts we call on him to approach it in such a way that will demonstrate his commitment.  A lasting commitment that spreads further than voting on the 5th of December 2000.

Annelizé van Wyk, MP
UDM Spokesperson for Safety and Security

Cape Town
14 November 2000