Cape residents question army's capacity to contain coronavirus crisis
Cape Town - While South Africans are going to be living under the watchful eye of the army for the next three months, this has been a reality for the Cape Flats for almost a year.
The South African National Defence Force were deployed to assist police to ensure citizens adhere to the 21-day lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19.
President Cyril Ramaphosa indicated that this deployment is scheduled to last until June 26 and will cost R64 million.
For some in Cape Town, the presence of the army has been an everyday reality.
The effectiveness of the army to deter crime in gang-ridden areas is still open to debate.
Spokesman for the minister of police Brigadier Mathapelo Peters said pronouncements on the impact of the deployment on the Cape Flats would be made when the annual crime statistics were released later this year.
Chairperson of the Community Policing Forum in Lavender Hill Gavin Walbraght said the army’s presence had not been much of a deterrent to gang violence.
“Our areas which fall under Steenberg and Muizenberg, were not part of the initial 10 police stations. The army only started coming in after we experienced increased gang-related activity, but were more reactive but not proactive,” he said.
“So it was not a deterrent at the height of gang violence. We went through a rough patch where we saw 10 killings a week, had three children shot and two of them died.
“We need them until our communities stop seeing gang shootings as a normal part of our daily lives.”
Nyanga Community Policing Forum Chairperson Martin Makhasi said the deployment had proved effective because of the army’s visibility.
“They were on the streets from Thursday evening until Sunday assisting police in carrying out operations. But officers still did the bulk of the work,” he added.
Makhasi said he was confident of a notable difference when crime statistics were released.
Military sociologist at the University of Stellenbosch Professor Lindy Heinecken said the impact of the nine-month deployment would be unlikely to bring long-lasting change.
“It will not create a lasting sense of stability until the culture and structural causes of the violence are addressed. Where the surveillance is not there, old patterns will return,” she said.
Premier Alan Winde said he could not speak to the effectiveness of the deployment as requests to put in clear markers to track its effectiveness had been ignored.
“When we called for the extension of the army’s deployment in September, it was with very clear conditions that measurement tools needed to be put in place to track the impact, and that deployment was done in a co-ordinated way to customise the response to specific areas. It is unclear to us whether these conditions were ever put into place.”
“The army deployment was only ever meant to be a short-term solution and, as a province, we have been working on interventions knowing that the SANDF will eventually leave.”
Heinecken added that the current deployment “is merely a ‘show’ of force but no ability to enforce anything given the geographic size of the area. The difference in this deployment is that it will be mainly roadblocks. But my biggest fear is that this is going to erupt in uncontrollable large scale violence as the survival and wellness of people are threatened”.
“The military does not have the capacity to contain this.”