CAPE TOWN, with its deep blue skies, the two oceans and table mountain in the background, is one of the most beautiful cities in the World, and yet it is ironic that just a few kilometers from this most beautiful city, which is an attraction for both domestic and international tourists and home to South Africa’s legislative authority, rages some of the most bloodiest gang battles in the world. The Cape Flats, townships such as Mitchell’s Plain, Manenburg, Phillipi, Delft, Bishops Court and others. Very romantic names, and yet people in those areas live in conditions no different from a war zone. Gangs such as the Hard Livings, the Americans, The Clever Kids, The Thug Life and up to 130 others are competing for territory with deadly consequences for the gang members and for members of the communities in which they operate. For years, the measures taken by the Government were inadequate to address the growing problem which is fueled by drug deals, poverty, unemployment, lack of adequate housing and ineffective schooling. It is hard to imagine how it should be for women and children living in these areas. Gun battles erupt at any moment during the day or night in the streets. Hundreds of residents, mainly children, have been caught in the crossfire, and in most cases, have been killed by stray bullets. The police have been trying to maintain some resemblance of law and order with very little success as shown by the number of murders reported particularly on weekends.
Recently, gang violence has skyrocketed, so much so that in one weekend, up to 50 people were reported killed. The Minister of Police, General Bheki Cele, had very little choice than to turn to the South African National Defence Force for assistance. The State President authorised the deployment of the Defence Force and immediately thereafter, the gangs were outgunned and the guns were silenced.
There are those who have cautioned against the deployment of the army in a matter which might seem to be a purely police matter. But in this instance, the police were running out of options and the place resembled a war zone. The residents of those areas welcomed the deployment of the army. Within a week of their deployment, community leaders reported a huge decline in gang violence, an indication that the army was already succeeding in its objective. It is only hoped that the deployment will remain in place until the violence has been eliminated for the sake of the people of the Western Cape. No one deserves to be murdered or to live in fear of being murdered.