Cape Town – It cost the SANDF a whopping R23 million to deploy the army to hot spots around the city but residents have little faith that the presence of the army is going to change anything.
President Cyril Ramaphosa indicated in a letter to Speaker Thandi Modise that the army will remain in the area for the next three months.
Ramaphosa’s letter, which was published in Parliament, said the soldiers will help police in crime fighting operations.
Earlier this week some 1 320 soldiers were deployed to 10 priority areas across the city to clamp down on gang violence.
But communities directly affected by the violence say they don’t want the army.
Concerned residents gathered outside the Claremont Main Road Mosque to protest the army being brought to the Cape Flats.
Among those in attendance were members of the mosque, surrounding church group leaders, members of the Alcardo Andrews Foundation (AAF) and MOMS Move For Justice Peace and Reconciliation, a support group in Hanover Park.
Most protesters held placards that stated: “We need social workers and treatment centres”, “Children and families live in fear on the Cape Flats” and “Protect the children and elderly”.
During Jumu’ah prayers, Henrietta Abrahams, a community leader in Bonteheuwel, reflected on some of the realities facing working class communities in Cape Town.
“We can complain and blame government, and believe you me; we give them hell in the boardroom and on the streets when we protest. They’re one part of the problem and also a critical part of the solution. But today I want to focus on us, ordinary citizens, and what we can do,” she said
“The government has deployed the SANDF to our areas but that’s not the troops we need to deal with our multifaceted problems. They’ll have very limited impact,” she said
“Our communities are unemployed or work low level jobs with low wages. Send in an army of skills development practitioners with facilities and resources that will equip our people with the skills necessary to eke out a decent living, skills that can end slave wages,” she added.
Claremont Main Road Mosque Imam Rashied Omar said: “Our people need to wake up.
“There is a war on the Cape Flats and it has been a low intensity war for a very long time, but it spikes up and down. There’s an army there but we also need an army of social workers, doctors, lawyers and people with skills. We don’t only want charity but solidarity. Hopefully we can make a start at this mosque,” said Omar.
“One of the key things is that our people need to be organised. Our young people are floating on cyberspace, sadly, they don’t even know who their neighbours are. Once they are organised and we have a network, then the power lies in our collective action and not individuals. Our young people have lots of energy, those energies need to be channeled into constructive activity.”
Avril Andrews, from AAF, said they will be marching to Parliament next month to bring awareness about what is happening on the Cape Flats.
“We will get communities and different organisations to march to Parliament with their grievances regarding the whole situation.
“We have already lost a number of people and would not like that to happen to others. The plan is to tell the government that we should look at solutions but to involve the public as well. Together we can make a difference,” she said.