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Twenty-eight years into democracy most SA townships are akin to hell on earth

Family cleaning blood in Idada street after a mass shooting in Khayelitsha where over 60 bullets were fired. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Family cleaning blood in Idada street after a mass shooting in Khayelitsha where over 60 bullets were fired. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 12, 2022

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Soon the recently appointed national police commissioner Fannie Masemola will appear at Parliament, alongside Police Minister Bheki Cele, to announce the latest quarterly crime statistics.

MPs and journalists will parse through the spreadsheets to decipher facts and figures while Masemola's police management will try to put a positive spin on things.

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But here’s the thing: South Africans do not feel safe while behind the wheel of a car, walking in the street or in their homes.

And the poorer you are, the chances are that you will become a victim of crime, whether you stay in Kliptown, KwaMashu, or Khayelitsha.

For several years now gangsters, particularly in Khayelitsha, have been killing each other in a war to extort businesses, especially foreign-owned spaza shops in the township.

In the most recent massacre, on Sunday, six people were gunned down. Although police have yet to effect an arrest (at the time of writing), community leaders in Khayelitsha say this massacre bears a resemblance to previous ones in the township.

While the DA, which runs the Western Cape and Cape Town, has fought the national government over police resources for areas like Khayelitsha, perhaps we need a paradigm shift. We can’t police poverty and its consequences. An army of police officers, descending on township streets, won’t make much of a difference if we do not tackle the root cause of poverty, which is inequality.

When workers at a May Day celebration booed President Cyril Ramaphosa and forced him to abandon his planned speech, it was because his ANC government has failed to address the inequality which continues to sustain poverty in South Africa.

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Twenty-eight years into democracy most townships are akin to hell on earth, where our constitutional rights are abstract, divorced from reality.

Here’s what the government can do: Reverse apartheid’s spatial planning, which locates the poor far from economic opportunities and resources.

The consequences of this will be far-reaching, but so far the ANC government has only paid lip service to the concept of dismantling townships.

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Politicians who fail to act should rightfully be punished at the ballot box because we can’t continue with this endless cycle of violence.

* Quinton Mtyala, Assistant Editor of the Cape Argus newspaper.

Cape Argus

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