South Africa: Cape Town caged by a rise in gang activities

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It is regarded as one of the most beautiful cities in Africa. With its scenic, colossal mountains and seductive sandy beaches, South Africa’s Cape Town has both beauty and historic features you hardly see in any other city in Africa, if not in the world. It is indeed a city that offers a lot for everyone. However, this beautiful city that boasts gorgeous and breathtaking scenes has become nothing enviable today; it has virtually been taken over by crime, with deadly gangs operating with impunity and audacity.

Violence has become a norm in South Africa, and Cape Town is hardly exempted from this ugly troubling bloodshed. News of murder, kidnapping, gun violence and other crimes has been on the increase and sadly, it seems the steps being taken by the government to curtail the assaults are not yielding expected dividends. Reported cases of gang violence in Cape Town are on the rise despite the deployment of the army to quell the escalating attacks that have seen many people lose their lives and decline in tourism. Recently, four people, three men and a woman, were boldly gunned down by anonymous gangsters who allegedly escaped immediately after carrying out the atrocious act.

The gangsters were alleged to have arrived at the scene in the middle of the night in a car and started spraying bullets at the victims who were in their early thirties, leaving them in critical conditions, only to succumb to their injuries later.

The South African police launched a  probe to establish the motive behind the killings and to bring the culprits to book. The officers equally called on those with information on the heinous incident to contact the Anti-Gang Unit.

Cape Town, an international tourist destination due to its natural beauty and historical sites have become a hotspot for gang activities, it has emerged as one of the most dangerous towns in the world. The statistics by the police show that 2,800 people were killed in Cape Town in 2018 while an alarming 20336 people were murdered in South Africa the same year. The young men who are often members of the infamous “Hard Livings” and “Young Americans gang groups have been terrorizing the city. Often, their victims are mainly the poor from black and mixed races with thousands of them allegedly killed since January.

The high rate of unemployment and drug abuse are believed to be the major causes of the crime increase. In a bid to combat a surge of gang violence, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in July deployed the military in the town to suppress the escalating criminal activities.

“Members of the regular and reserve forces of the SANDF will undertake operations in cooperation with the police, and will support the prevention and combating of crime,” Ramaphosa said in a statement.

However, the presence of the SANDF has been strongly opposed by a group of individuals who believe the move will not provide a long-lasting solution to the crime. Some are of the opinion that the government should rather focus on addressing the root causes of the crimes to eradicate them.

The SANDF troops sent to Cape Town were scheduled to leave the city on October 16, however, president Ramaphosa extended their stay for six months to continue to reinforce the local police. Sadly, the latest reports clearly revealed that the Cape Town residents are still feeling the heat of the assassins despite the presence of the soldiers. More pessimistic, the Director of the safety and violence initiative, Guy Lamb, warned that even with government initiatives such as the Anti-Gang Unit and Operation Lock-Down, “there is going to be no impact in the crime statistics.” What does this say about the battle against violent crime in South Africa? A lot.

Given the continual crime in Cape Town, many disturbing questions come to one’s mind.  Has the presence of the SANDF deterred the gangs and night marauders from carrying out their heinous crimes?  Have the police and other law enforcement agencies failed woefully to tackle the gang’s menacing activities? Has corruption amongst some bad eggs in the law enforcement establishment compromised the agencies’ work and given the men of the underworld the power, impetus and audacity to operate fearlessness? How many lives have been lost due to the alleged corruption and ineffectiveness of the law enforcement agents? Whatever the answer may be, the one thing is clear: President Cyril Ramaphosa has tried the military solution to the crimes in South Africa and that has hardly produced a successful result. Perhaps, the President should try the economic solution by creating more jobs, education and opportunities for all South Africans. That could most likely produce more effective results than anything else.

Failure to take urgent steps to curtail crime epidemics in South Africa will only turn the country into a caged bird – at the mercy of merciless criminals.