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Simplistic LEAP interventions won’t solve Cape Town’s crime problems

Lorenzo A Davids writes the history of gangsterism on the Cape Flats shows that thousands of arrests have made no dent. With child deaths at the centre of this political, socio-economic and mental health crisis, a security-only approach is a wrong approach. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Lorenzo A Davids writes the history of gangsterism on the Cape Flats shows that thousands of arrests have made no dent. With child deaths at the centre of this political, socio-economic and mental health crisis, a security-only approach is a wrong approach. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Oct 21, 2021

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Last week, a disturbing article appeared in the newspaper, “43% of children aged 10 to 17 who died in the W Cape were murdered”.

It should have triggered an emergency Cabinet meeting, which should have been followed by a joint briefing by the MECs for Social Development and Community Safety; instead, it remained a single article.

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The article reported that “of the 244 deaths of children aged 10 to 19 over the last nine months, 105 of those were murdered, which accounted for 43% of the deaths in that age group”.

That is, 11 children murdered on average every month over the past nine months in the Western Cape.

The murders of these young people fall into three categories: youth-on-youth violence, domestic violence and gang violence.

In July 2021, the Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz stated that 215 children were killed in the Western Cape from January 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021.

In Kraaifontein, 23 children suffered violent deaths over this period.

Blustering speeches and exaggerated promises are just that.

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There is no intelligent response from government to the issues that cause poverty, which produces trauma and violence and, in turn, causes murder.

The Western Cape and City of Cape Town’s Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP) will send more than 1 000 LEAP officers to these communities as a solution to this complex ecosystem.

The problem is that this kind of crime has socio-economic, political and mental health origins. A LEAP officer with six months’ training will have no clue how to root out these problems.

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The history of gangsterism on the Cape Flats shows that thousands of arrests have made no dent.

With child deaths at the centre of this political, socio-economic and mental health crisis, a security-only approach is a wrong approach.

Building higher walls around communities to close off movement, and blocking pedestrian alleys in areas such as Mitchells Plain, is an indication that government have a very simplistic view of how to stop the growing domestic violence, mental health concerns and gang recruitment culture.

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Crime-reduction plans such as the 2019 Western Cape Safety Plan have a "Cape Flats remix" the moment they are announced.

For every crime-prevention plan announced by government, a detailed counter plan is developed across the Cape Flats to circumvent it. And while this sounds very complicated, it is not.

This is about economic survival and political resistance. If you don’t understand the business and political resistance element to crime, you will keep placing boots on the ground and be defeated by intelligent business and resistance leaders.

Cape Flats gangs were born as a response to injustice, enforced poverty and indignity.

There is a resistance economy in the gang community that provides income for thousands of people: feeds them, sends their kids to school and creates jobs. Increased policing cannot undo this entrenched resistance politics, and survivalist economy.

It will not change without understanding, and courageous dialogue with the leaders of these groups.

This has always been the only way. Building well-resourced integrated communities instead of township poverty traps is a beginning. But if all you do is build security fencing and put troops on the ground, you really know nothing about stopping crime.

As a child, I used to watch the police raid the house opposite us in the early 70s for alcohol and marijuana. Firstly, the family always had a tip-off that the police were coming.

The majority of the stuff got moved away a few hours ahead of the raid.

Some stuff was left for the police to discover. After the police left, the goods were returned, and the business continued. That is still the case today.

I am still waiting for an urgent Cabinet statement on the murder of these 105 children.

It is such silence that drives the message that poor people and townships are simply areas to be policed, searched and blockaded.

There are no other plans. You are on your own.

* Lorenzo A Davids.

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

Cape Argus

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