We say no to sending the army to Cape Flats

2012-07-14 13:27

The Ceasefire Campaign ­appreciates the desperate ­situation that communities on the Cape Flats find themselves in as a result of the ongoing gang violence.

However, we believe that Premier Helen Zille’s call for the deployment of the army in the affected areas is misguided and ill-considered.

The military, which is not trained to deal with gang warfare, should not be used domestically for the purpose of law enforcement.

The violence on the Cape Flats does not constitute a threat to our national security and it would therefore be improper for the army to make a show of force there.

It is the responsibility of the police to enter the violence-afflicted areas in large numbers and to carry out widespread searches in order to
disarm gang members.

By removing as many of the firearms as possible that are in circulation, the police will help in implementing the Firearms Control Act.

But while disarming the area is necessary, this will not be sufficient to ensure that peace and security prevail.

Thus, relevant provincial government departments, in particular the social services department, must invest in meaningful projects to bring hope to the long-neglected ­communities.

The Ceasefire Campaign calls on President Jacob Zuma not to accede to Zille’s request as this would set a serious precedent that could lead us down a slippery slope, where it could become normal for authorities to consider the use of the military to address dire and violent local situations that are caused by a variety of social conditions.

Social problems cannot be alleviated by the introduction of highly armed personnel whose primary task is to fight an external enemy.

The Cape Flats communities are not the enemy. The appeal to send in the army to deal with violence in a locality of South Africa no doubt shows desperation and despair, but it also points to a lack of creative thinking.

Recently, the well-publicised Social Cohesion Summit was held in Kliptown, Soweto, which was addressed by prominent academics, politicians and trade unionists.

Are there no lessons generated from this summit that can usefully be applied to foster social cohesion on the Cape Flats?

Surely there must be personalities with the requisite skills who can be called upon to cooperate with community leaders to begin to engender a culture that will result in greater peace.

The Ceasefire Campaign is opposed to the deployment of the army on the Cape Flats to pull the police’s iron out of the fire and we therefore call on Zille to reflect on the wisdom of her request.

»Govindjee is the spokesperson for the Ceasefire Campaign, an NGO.  

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