THE SANDF patrol Hanover Park. People on the Cape Flats feel safe for the first time in a long time because of the presence of a more powerful force than the gangsters, says the writer. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
THE SANDF patrol Hanover Park. People on the Cape Flats feel safe for the first time in a long time because of the presence of a more powerful force than the gangsters, says the writer. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Integrated approach needed to challenge the narrative of Cape Flats violence

By Brian Williams Time of article published Jul 29, 2019

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Peace is regarded as a tranquil condition and state of harmony, characterised by the absence of violence and the fear of violence.

We have a civil war on the Cape Flats and child soldiers are an integral part of the criminal economies operated by non-state armed groups (gangsters), under the control of war lords. The deployment of the army has helped to reduce the fear of violence in those areas where the SANDF has started their patrols.

The emotional well-being of communities, affected by the destructive red tides of violence, is an important aspect of the symbolism attached to the presence of the army.

Trans-generational traumas persist and the deployment of the army has brought a sense of relief to communities. A strong belief exists that in any confrontation with non-state armed groups, the army will emerge victorious. People on the Cape Flats feel safe for the first time in a long time because of the presence of a more powerful force than the “gangsters”.

Permanent positive peace is possible if fundamental conditions are met.

I support the call for the peoples army to be deployed.

I applaud the decision by the South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who wisely heeded the cries of the people, to deploy the army this month.

Last November, in Hanover Park President Ramaphosa launched the Anti-Gang Unit, headed by General Andre Lincoln.

General Lincoln was previously appointed by President Nelson Mandela to head up the Presidential Investigation Task Unit (Pitu).

The decision to appoint General Lincoln, who is widely regarded as a principled police officer, gives us hope for the first time in a long time.

Last September, I wrote that the political economy of the civil war trade is based on illegal activities, which require expanding markets to service the commercial interests of war lords.

One armed group of citizens is in constant war against other groups of armed citizens to control the economies of communities.

These insurgent warlords and their killers live among us and their control and governance of these geographic zones determine their influence.

Underground economies are able to flourish. Thousands are employed in a web of undocumented industries linked to criminal activities. Career criminals are cultivated to form part of an underworld of commerce and industry. Legitimate businesses are established with laundered money.

Laws of supply and demand form an integral part of this illicit economy and we have parallel systems of human resource activities in place to support the violence.

Marginalised people become a human resource supply for these politico-criminal economies.

There is a permanent war to control lucrative economic spaces in communities and regions of the country.

Each of these non-state armed groups require child soldiers as a necessary part of their paramilitaries.

These damaged children form part of the infra-structure of terror in communities. All of these armed groups fundamentally oppose the rule of law and they undermine all state institutions on the ground.

Amnesty options need to be seriously considered for those who wish to exit “gangs”. Peace and justice interests must be balanced, so that millions can begin to have hope for peace.

Amnesty was provided to apartheid killers who committed crimes.

We need to have a “disarm, demobilisation and re-integration” plan.

Some ideas for President Ramaphosa to consider include, but are not limited to:

* The Anti-Gang Unit should be redefined, similar to the Pitu and fall under the executive leadership of President Ramaphosa. The operational control should be with the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele.

* The army, deployed to assist in opposing non-state armed groups, must be under the tactical command of the Anti-Gang Unit. If this fundamental condition is not met, then the presence of the army will invariably become ceremonial, compromised and they may end up being discredited.

* An integrated approach is needed to address the complex issue of non-state armed groups on the Cape Flats and elsewhere. The national government, the Western Cape provincial government, as well as the City of Cape Town need to have a single macro plan to address the challenges of human security and sustainable peace-building processes.

* There ought to be a multi-agency intelligence team: the State Security Agency, military intelligence and crime intelligence that services the needs of the Anti-Gang Unit.

* Specialised prosecutors should be attached to the office of the unit.

* The unit should also have an independent monitoring mechanism to ensure that the rule of law is observed.

* The establishment of a special court system that only focuses on those charged in relation to non-state armed groups that form part of gang structures.

Premier Alan Winde’s heart and mind is in the right place. He must lead from the front and re-conceptualise the role of the Western Cape government.

His office should establish a macro-strategic plan that re-frames provincial government policy and functions, to create conditions for peace.

There should be a Premier's Peace Plan driven from his office. The City of Cape Town's executive mayor, Dan Plato, who has his feet on the ground in vulnerable communities, should align the policy regimes of the City towards building and consolidating peace. Ideally, national, provincial and City of Cape Town departments should transversally work towards addressing all typologies of violence.

The legacies of colonial and apartheid spatial planning must be reversed. All policies must be evaluated to determine how they contribute towards the implementation of peace. The City of Cape Town started a wonderful pilot project to promote peace through its Peace Ambassadors programme.

Catholic Archbishop Stephen Brislin started a Catholic Peace Ambassadors project via the Justice and Peace Commission. All Catholic parishes will receive peace training and they will be required to implement peace projects in the parishes and communities.

Civil society needs to engage directly in helping to challenge the narrative of violence that dominates the lives of communities.

If the impotence of the state persists and the inability of civil society to change the conditions of violence continues, then the prospects for human liberation and sustainable development for South Africa are at risk.

The Western Cape government and the City of Cape Town have the jurisdiction to create a culture of peace and the national government has the obligation to contain violence, break the capacity of non-state armed groups to inflict harm on people and to hold those who transgress accountable. It is only with integrated and holistic co-ordination that the balance of forces in support of peace will genuinely create safe and vibrant communities.

* Brian Williams is Visiting Professor in fields of Peace, Mediation, Conflict Transformation and Labour Relations. University of the Sacred Heart: Gulu, Uganda. Chief Executive: Williams Labour Law and Mediation. Thought Leader Award 2018 Recipient: Issued by the Black Management Forum

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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