Cape Town - As the bloodletting on the Cape Flats continues unabated and calls for the deployment of the army fall on deaf ears, a desperate call to declare a state of emergency in the province has been made to jolt the national government into action.
Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz on Monday urged the national government to consider declaring a provincial state of emergency after a weekend in which 55 people were killed across the province.
Echoing the calls made by community leaders across the Cape Flats following the bloodshed over the weekend, the MEC said: “Between midnight Friday and 6am today (Monday), there were 55 unnatural deaths which resulted from gunshot wounds and sharp objects in the province; 33 of which were in the metro west region.
"We are indeed facing a crisis. In June 2018, there were 344 alleged murder admissions. However, in June 2019, there were 448. Of the 448 admissions, 369 were in the metro.
"The figures are deeply chilling and it is for this reason that I have called on the SANDF (SA National Defence Force) to be immediately deployed… In the past, communities have called for a state of emergency and this is something that the national government needs to consider in a bid to bring peace.”
Fritz was backed in his call by Cape Town’s mayco member for safety and security JP Smith who said: “I also support the call by the Western Cape Community MEC for military intervention and the declaration of a state of emergency. We owe it to the thousands of victims of crime in Cape Town to put in place effective measures to curb the lawlessness that continues to rage in many of our communities.”
However, Johan Burger, a senior researcher with the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, said: "A state of emergency would make serious inroads into people's lives, so I doubt the government would allow it. The police need to first bring calm to the Philippi area and in fact to the entire Cape Flats.
"They can only do this by increasing their presence through a high density… for as long as is necessary to calm people. Second, they need to use all resources at their disposal.
“(These should) include tip-offs from the public, whom they must protect, to identify those behind the killings. They need to convince the public that the police have their interests at heart and they can be trusted.”
Sandile Martin, cluster chairperson of the Nyanga CPF, said: “We can’t have 11 murders in 24 hours. Six murders on Friday night and then on Saturday night, five murders. Eleven in total. It is unacceptable. At the moment we don’t know the reason for these murders because the police are still busy investigating.
“However, we have seen visible change in Philippi since the deployment of more security personnel began on Sunday. The people had witnessed shootings on Friday and Saturday night and were anticipating more killings on Sunday, but instead it was quiet and police even arrested two people for housebreaking,” said Martin.
Xolisa Pukayi, community activist and Philippi East ward committee member for safety and security, said: “We as a community are demanding 24/7 police visibility. We want the police here around the clock and if they cannot do it we will have to make a plan.”
On Monday, Police Minister General Bheki Cele visited Philippi East and announced that a meeting of the justice cluster would take place today (Tuesday) after it was convened by his co-chair on the cluster, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Noluthando Mapisa-Nqakula.
While he would not comment on the calls for a state of emergency, Cele said: “We have seen the memorandum from the people of Philippi and there are things to implement as soon as we can and that’s why tomorrow we have a meeting of the justice cluster – all the ministers will be there – and from there we’ll come with a road map of the quick implementation, not just in Philippi, but in the broader metro trying to stop the murders taking place here.”
“Police have identified those people and by the time the 72-hour action plan in response to the shootings over the weekend ends, we will be able to apprehend them,” assured Cele.
At a meeting in Philippi East, residents told Cele that they had raised the same issues and fears about their security several times over the past few years but no permanent solutions had been found to their plight.