Army deployment having some impact

SANDF soldiers have been deployed to the Cape Flats to help the police quell gang violence. Photo by Ashraf Hendricks/GroundUp

Improved police visibility and a focus on illegal shebeens are some of the impacts that Nyanga CPF says the army has had since deployment in the township nineteen days ago.

Nyanga Community Police Forum (CPF) chairperson, Martin Makasi said that even though they are not in support of the deployment of the army, they are happy with the improvement in police visibility, the focus on illegal shebeens and the integrated approach adopted by the law enforcement agencies taking part in the operation. Makasi was one of the panelists at a seminar on the deployment of the army organised by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Cape Town on Tuesday. According to Makasi, Nyanga CPF, and other forums that fall under the Nyanga cluster, was skeptical about the deployment of the army as it “will be just a quick-fix solution and won’t deal with the real problem,” said Makasi.

“But we supported it because we were told that the deployment of the South African National Defence Force would normalise and stabilise the situation,” said Makasi. It has been three weeks since the army has been deployed in the top ten priority stations that include Nyanga, Philippi East, Manenberg, Bishop Lavis, Elsies River, Mitchell’s Plain, Khayelitsha, Mfuleni, Kraaifontein and Delft. According to the police ministry, the ten stations contributed 42% of attempted murders in the province.

Makasi told the seminar audience that people in Nyanga thought that the police with the help of the army were going to do a lockdown, search and seizure operation. However, “People did not expect the operation to be done for few hours and then they leave the area.” What the government’s plan is after the withdrawal of the troops is also uncertain, he said.

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This is not the first army deployment, Professor Rajen Govender from the Sociology Department of the University of Cape Town reminded the audience, as “there have been 15 similar operations since 1994.” He said that the operations were able to suppress certain forms of crime for only short periods of time. Govender was part of a 12-year study that looked at children and violence and understanding the multiple determinants of violence, victimisation and crime.

“What sort of environment does it create to send a military with big guns to already violent communities? The gangs would see the army as an opposition to them, because they also consider themselves to be an army. For the communities, it would mean two militarised units engaging in a combat dance. The deployment of the army will not achieve much,” he said.

According to Makasi, the current operation is targeted at high flyers, druglords and known criminals in the community. “The high-flyers have told us that the operation is just making it difficult for them to move their stuff,” said Makasi. He was responding to a questions about the effectiveness of the operation in catching those who are known to be involved in criminal activities in the community. “They know that the army and the police will be in the area for few hours in a day and then they would leave,” he said.

A recent report by the provincial Department of Community Safety revealed that intelligence gathering by the South African Police Services is poor.

According to Andrew Faull from the ISS, Cape Town is the most violent in the world. “In 2017/18, its murder rate was 62.3 per 100,000 residents compared to the national average of 35.2 and a global average of 6.1. In the last ten months, over 2,300 people have been murdered in the Western Cape province, most in specific parts of the Cape Flats,” he said.

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As a way forward, Makasi said that as the Nyanga CPF, they want the finding of the Equality Court that police resources in the province are allocated in a way that discriminates based on race and class, to be addressed. “After that court judgement, we are still waiting to meet with the police ministry legal team and see how we can implement the judgement and allocate more resources to the Cape Flats including the townships,” said Makasi. “There is also a need to implement the Khayelitsha Commission findings. Our government is quick to establish commissions but takes forever to implement the recommendations,” he concluded.

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