A fleet of brand new BMWs were officially handed over by President Cyril Ramaphosa to the Western Cape’s new Anti-Gang Unit during a launch in Hanover Park, Cape Town, on Friday.
SAPS paraded 50 unmarked BMWs, to be used specifically by detectives, in front of thousands of screaming Hanover Park residents at the Downsberg Sports Field.
"Today [Friday] we are launching a national anti-gang strategy," Ramaphosa said during his keynote address.
"This strategy that has been given to me by the minister, crafted by the commissioner of police and his top police management, is a strategy that we are going to unfold.
"This means that it is jail time for gangsters. This is the end of the road of your terrorising our communities."
Ramaphosa explained that the national anti-gang strategy sought to address gangsterism in a holistic manner.
"This strategy is a community-based strategy with a focus on street-level outreach, community development, conflict mediation and changing community norms in order to reduce violence and criminality," he said.
National police commissioner General Khehla Sithole said that the launch of the gang unit was in response to public demands.
"The gang unit launch is as a result of the outcry of the communities. Not only the communities in this province, but nationally, relating to gang violence and crimes," he said.
"This is also part of the response to the recently released crime stats. Certain crime creates fear in our communities."
'People here never requested soldiers'
Police Minister Bheki Cele, who arrived in a bright blue and yellow SAPS tracksuit, enthusiastically greeted the officers, before proceeding with his speech.
"People here never requested soldiers. They requested a better response from the police, and that is what we are doing here," he said.
The Cape Town team would also be getting bakkies and a nyala as part of its response fleet.
The launch of the new anti-gang unit comes after a massive outcry from the Western Cape communities during a Total Shutdown protest across Cape Town in October.
Following the protests, Cele promised Bonteheuwel residents that he would establish a new unit.
In 2003, the Western Cape police's specialised gang unit was disbanded by then police commissioner Jackie Selebi.
Operation Combat was created in 2010 and focused on taking down high-ranking gangsters in the province and prosecuting them under the Prevention of Organised Crime Act.
It was then communicated that Operation Combat had been disbanded in 2016.
Premier Helen Zille, who delivered the welcoming address at the launch, reminded the crowd that former MEC for Community Safety and new mayor of Cape Town, Dan Plato, had been lobbying for a gang unit for 10 years.
Cele said the Western Cape launch would begin the process of a national roll-out.