A mere two days after President Cyril Ramaphosa extended the deployment of the army on the Cape flats, four people, of which three primary school children, were shot and killed by gangsters in Clarke’s Estate, Elsies river. At the beginning of September, a 27-year-old woman was killed when she was caught in a rival gang shootout in Grassy Park, Cape Town. These are just two of countless incidents that are leaving innocent people dead thanks to the on-going uncontrollable gang wars that are spreading like a cancer across the Cape Flats.
Understanding the city’s gang culture
The gangs in Cape Town run extremely well-organised operations where only the most cunning is given a seat at the table. A lot of the boys lured into gangs come from broken games that lack a reliable father figure. The gang leaders offer these kids a sense of belonging, and not knowing any better, they enter grim world filled with violence and death. The city’s most notorious gangs, the American’s, the 28s, the Mongrels, the Terrible Josters, and the Junky Funky Kids, do not prey on the weak, but they will use them as foot soldiers if they are found in the ranks. Most members start out as runners with children in school uniform being particularly useful as the police are less likely to pay any attention to them.
Murder rate skyrocket thanks to increased tension between gangs
It’s a dog-eat-dog world on the streets of the Cape Flats with no gangster (or bystander) ever being assured of waking up the next day. According to recently-released statistics, the most gang-ridden precincts in the city account for up to 42% of attempted murders in the province. Between January and July this year, more than 2,000 people lost their lives in the gang wars on the Flats. These skyrocketing murder statistics put the Mother City on course to fast become one of the deadliest cities in the world, even overtaking known murder hotspots such as Kingston and San Salvador out of the Top 15.
Army deployment was met with mixed reactions
On 18 July, exactly one week after Police minister Bheki Cele announced that the President gave the go-ahead for soldiers to support the police in the gang-infested Cape Flats, the military vehicles started rolling in. Videos that circulated on various social media platforms showed troops arrive in Manenberg before moving to Hanover Park. In an attempt to cease the war on the streets, members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) were deployed for a period of three months to assist the SAPS in Bishop Lavis, Delft, Mitchells Plain, Nyanga, Elsies River, Philippi, Kraaifontein, Manenberg, and Khayelitsha. On the weekend of 27 July, a total of 46 people were murdered in the Western Cape despite the army presence in murder hotspots, leaving the residents with very little confidence in the relief efforts.
Not much has changed for the residents of the Cape Flats
Despite the presence of the army, not much has changed on the streets of the Cape Flats. The gangs continue to run rampant and the residents continue to live in fear. One of the main reasons for the public’s scepticism are reports that only 300 of the promised 1320 promised troops were deployed to the area. This, together with very limited patrol times and a complete absence during the most critical hours, has stripped many of their last bit of hope. Despite the public disbelief, the deployment has been extended by a further six months and will now only conclude at the end of March 2020. Operation Prosper is not the first deployment of its kind on the Cape Flats. In January 2012 they army was called in to assist in gang-related violence and again on 30 June 2015 as part of a continuous attempt to deter organised crime in the area.
The residents of the Cape Flats live in fear every day of their lives. Hopefully, by the grace of God and with the help of the SANDF, the SAPS, and community leaders the bloodshed in Cape Town will come to an end before many ore lives are lost in the senseless killings.
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Gang Wars Continue in Cape Town Despite Army Presence
Cape Town, South Africa