The army have finally arrived in gang-infested areas such as Manenberg and Hanover Park. The writer hopes that the deployment of the army there last week is not too late. Picture: Phando Jikelo African News Agency (ANA)
The unmitigated tragedy playing itself out on the Cape Flats is arguably the most important public interest matter today, paling even the avalanche of corruption shenanigans we have heard so much of at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry.

The huge difference is the tragic, unnecessary and avoidable loss of so many lives on the Cape Flats, as a result of gang warfare that has devastated many working-class communities, especially in coloured areas.

In this regard nobody can argue with what Kevin Ritchie stated last week in his column in this paper: ‘’What is happening in Cape Town, what has been allowed to develop on the forgotten and dumped communities of the Cape Flats, has to be a crime against humanity: 1875 people have been killed there this year.’’

Once again, we have seen a direct correlation between race, class and crime in this country, a distinct pattern which was not only perpetuated but worsened in the Western Cape after the ANC won the 1994 elections but lost there.

Having lived there for over a decade I have no doubt that besides the usual social causes of crime and gangsterism, such as unemployment and poverty, there is a clearly discernible politics at play, in fact since the election results of 1994, which was comfortably won by the then Nationalist Party (NP).

I argue that besides what the history of apartheid did to coloured working-class townships in Cape Town, what is more important is what happened or did not happen after 1994, which violently tore further apart the already fragile social fabric of those areas, today marked by a lethal combination of joblessness, crime and drugs, all of which are causally inseparably interrelated.

The lobsided affirmative action policies of the ANC have also played a big part in the stark alienation coloured people have for long felt there.

But the facts make it very clear that even before the results of the 1994 election, most of the coloured working class never really trusted the ANC with their future.

Indeed, part of this distrust was due to the propagandistic swart gevaar tactics of the NP, which they ratcheted up in their campaign in the run-up to the 1994 election. But it is the premature disbanding of the UDF in 1991, under pressure from the largely ANC exiled leadership, which created a vacuum in many coloured townships which the NP exploited.

The year 1994 was the first time in the former colonial world that an oppressed and exploited people voted in their first-ever Uhuru election for their centuries-old oppressors and exploiters.

It is from that point of view that we must begin to understand the tragedy wreaking havoc in Cape Town for many years, but especially the past year, the full extent of which has not been seen anywhere else in this country.

I believe that this tragedy was not only avoidable but that there are elements in the ANC government itself which might have deliberately neglected getting to grips with and putting an end to the raging violence and killings which have torn those townships apart.

The fact that the province of the Western Cape, and Cape Town itself, was decisively won by the opposition DA, including in the recent elections, and that the majority of the coloured people was returning it to power from one election to the next, was a very vexing matter for particular ANC leaders, both at provincial and national levels.

This, I believe, spawned a bitterness among these politicians, which resulted in them virtually folding their arms while gangs were butchering one another in coloured townships, including relevant ANC ministers, especially for the police and defence.

How otherwise can a party which controls the police and army of the most advanced country in Africa not be able to put an end to this utter carnage, especially in a city where Parliament is based? Let us hope that the deployment of the army there last week is not too late.

The ANC has never seriously asked itself why the coloured working class, especially in a place where the UDF was born in 1983, turned away from it and towards first the NP and later the DA. I hold the ANC responsible for the fact that this class is today incredibly more alienated from it than they were from the NP under apartheid.

* Harvey is a political writer and commentator.

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