“We want the army now” were the words echoed by thousands of residents who took part in the march led by DA leader Mmusi Maimane last week.
The crowd gathered at the Manenberg police station and were joined by Premier Helen Zille, DA provincial leader Bonginkosi Madikizela, and Community Safety MEC Dan Plato.
Residents marched to Gugulethu and Nyanga police stations demanding that the army be sent to gang-infested areas on the Cape Flats.
Gadija Joubert, who has lived in Manenberg for 49 years, said the army was desperately needed as the murder, rape, gangsterism and drug abuse continues.
“It is a daily occurrence, just when you are getting used to the peace, the gang violence flares up again. The army will make a difference if they are here because they did it before,” she said.
Another Manenberg resident Margaret Joseph agreed.
“There is so much drugs and merchants and gangsterism we need the army. Hopefully they will be able to destroy all the drug dealers and gangsterism. We also need job creation because there are a lot of young and old people who have no income and that’s why the young children get involved in gangs,” she said.
Community Safety MEC Dan Plato said he was not asking for the army to come and create a war on the Cape Flats and shoot at residents, but rather to act as a force multiplier and assist the police.
He said police stations in the Western Cape continued to be under-resourced.
“Eighty-five percent of police stations in the Western Cape are under-resourced and the conviction rate is a mere 3% of the total which means that 97% of all killers in Cape Town are walking free without any consequence; our conviction rate is the lowest of all provinces. There is a problem with our justice system and prosecuting authority hence the perpetrators are of the opinion that they will never get caught and that notion must stop,” he said.
Mr Plato said there is no excuse as to why the army cannot be deployed.
“We want to stop the killings and the death in our communities,” he said.
In October last year former National Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula added his voice to calls for the support of the army to be deployed in crime-ridden communities but that did not happen as former president Jacob Zuma did not sign off on the agreement.
Provincial secretary of the Western Cape ANC, Faiez Jacobs, however, stated bringing in the army is primarily for fighting external enemies.
“Gangs, as much as they terrorise communities, they are members of the community, they belong to families, they look like the community and have blended-in . Without intelligence and policing skills, to credibly identify who of the community is the real gangster, experience in other countries has revealed mass killings of innocent young men because they fit a profile… young and black male.”
He said you need detectives that can blend in and identify and isolate the real gangsters while the army overwhelms the space and their efforts lead to many killings.
“Secondly, there is no evidence, anywhere in the world, that shows that deploying military to fight crime works. In most cases, the longer the military stays, they become part of the problem, with a contest between deaths by gangs and deaths by military.
Our view as ANC is that the causes of gangsterism and crime will always dictate the solution.”