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Confronting the causes of gang violence on the Cape Flats will demand honesty

Quinton Mtyala writes that children grow up on the Cape Flats more attuned to the sounds of gunfire than nursery rhymes. File picture: Neil Baynes/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Quinton Mtyala writes that children grow up on the Cape Flats more attuned to the sounds of gunfire than nursery rhymes. File picture: Neil Baynes/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Apr 27, 2022

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For more than a month now a gang war has raged in Hanover Park, with several lives lost as rival gangs try to outshoot one another for territorial dominance and control of the lucrative drug trade.

Anyone who has lived on apartheid's dumping grounds, otherwise known as the Cape Flats, knows that deadly violence has made the lives of too many people unbearable.

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Children grow up on the Cape Flats more attuned to the sounds of gunfire than nursery rhymes. Too often, stray bullets find unintended targets, causing either death or lifelong scars.

For many, the only escape from the violence is through either exceptional drive, education or talent.

Politicians, those whom we entrust with our votes every five years, know all about places like Hanover Park, Manenberg, Heideveld and Khayelitsha.

Politicians and their mandarins have intimate knowledge of the problems, never mind the violence that plagues every township in every corner of South Africa.

But taking any sort of action about the root causes of the violence that plagues us almost 30 years after freedom would mean that South Africa confronts, and not merely pays lip service to, our painful history of dispossession and social engineering.

A few years ago the City of Cape Town spent R34 million on an American technology that was supposed to detect and determine the origin of shots fired.

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The technology was supposed to be a game changer, but perhaps the City underestimated the determination of gangsters, and that even a potential criminal conviction would not deter them.

If 11 people were shot and killed in one of the many upmarket, touristy areas of Cape Town, international news crews would be touching down and broadcasting live from the scene of the crime, and South Africa would justifiably receive international condemnation.

But gang violence on the Cape Flats barely earns a mention on international news wires, and when it does, it paints South Africa as a basket case.

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Perhaps we should talk about demolishing apartheid spatial planning, and the lack of resources (not just policing) that still bedevil townships in South Africa.

Perhaps we should talk about redesigning townships to be less dense and more community-centred.

Our collective failure will ensure that 30 years from now we are still writing about gangsterism in places like Hanover Park.

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