They're there, but you won't see them.
Deputy Minister of State Security Zizi Kodwa said operatives of the State Security Agency (SSA) were involved in the current anti-gang operation in the Western Cape, as part of an integrated approach to fighting this scourge.
Kodwa and State Security Minister Ayando Dlodlo addressed the media ahead of their budget vote on Thursday.
In her statement, Dlodlo said they would review and update the anti-gangsterism strategy and maximise the utilisation of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA), "leading to the increased prosecution of individuals and groups involved in gangsterism".
Asked for more information on the current operation in the Western Cape, where the South African National Defence Force's deployment is awaited, Kodwa said the approach against gangsterism was multi-disciplinary.
"There are a number of departments involved, because it is not just about the proliferation of guns and so on. There are socio-economic conditions, and that's why we have the Department of Social Development," Kodwa said.
"But importantly, all those operations are intelligence driven. And there, you will not see [them] because intelligence officers and operatives don't wear a uniform, so if you look for them, you won't see them. But as we indicated, we play a very important part in those operations."
He said if government didn't deal decisively with gangsterism it was likely to undermine the legitimacy of the state.
Acting Director General Loyiso Jafta added: "The truth is, and we've already seen elements of this, it does displace the formal structures of the state.
"But further to that, if you allow it to mature, then it starts corrupting law enforcement authorities, it starts corrupting judiciary, it starts corrupting the legislature and, before you know, you have a complete narco-state. And once that happens, it's very, very difficult to reverse the effects of that," Jafta said.
"So it is not a minor threat, the issue of gangsterism and organised crime. You can put these people in prison and, before you know, they run the prisons, just like they run communities in some areas, not necessarily in the country, but elsewhere in the world."