South Africa has seen a surge in mass protest against gangsterism and drugs by disgruntled community members.
These protests, which were predominantly peaceful, were a follow-up on various others protest action that shook our country over the last couple of years.
Many would argue that these protest found its origin and is deeply rooted in the predominantly Cape Flats coloured communities in Cape Town claiming that coloureds have been marginalised since the dawn of democracy.
A number of community development projects have been implemented in many working class communities throughout the length and breadth of our country but the government has failed to communicate such to the broader society and the perception of marginalisation is still echoed by many ill-informed people. However, many social ills still exist in these and other communities and must be eradicated.
To say that Cape Town is the only area affected by the scourge of gansgterism, drugs and violence is far from the truth. All over our country drug abuse exist and cocaine and heroin to chrystal meth and nyope (which is a concoction of low-grade heroin cut with anything from rat poison to chlorine) abuse is the order of the day.
These challenges are faced by many communities as can be seen by the mass protest actions that erupted in places like Kagiso in Krugersdorp which resulted in the burning of a police station and houses of drug dealers.
Rossetinville, Hillbrow, Aldorado Park and Westbury in Johannesburg all erupted in sporadic protest action in the past.
In areas like Pretoria North, residents took to the streets to protest against the proliferation of drugs and foreign nationals were mainly targeted as they were accused of dealing in drugs. The townships of Soshanguve, Attridgeville and Mamelodi in Pretoria also took their plight to the streets.
Cape Town, however, is one of the most spectacular cities in the world and also one of the most violent. Cape Town is essentially two cities in one. One is beautiful - located on the slopes of Table Mountain and the scenic areas along the coast and the other is one of the most dangerous cities in the world where police need bullet-proof vests and sometimes army backup to instil some sort of order in uncontrollable townships.
In these townships gangs of young men rule the night and day with heavy calibre handguns defending turf for drug lords, and instilling fear in the community.
For many people in Cape Town, this area is known simply as "The Flats". It is often described by some as apartheid's dumping ground that forced many people labelled as Coloured into informal settlements in the sprawling flat land of the city. These indigenous, predominantly Afrikaans speaking coloured community, occupies the so-called Cape Flats region where they were relocated by the Afrikaner led Apartheid government. Almost all of these communities to one degree or another, remain poverty stricken with serious social problems including a high rate of unemployment and disturbing levels of gang activity and violence.
The Cape Flats is notorious for its bands of organised gangs that can be found on almost every street corner of the townships. This is however a symptom of a deeply rooted socio-economic challenge faced by various working class communities throughout South Africa. These social ills are not unique to South Africa and similar problems exist in many other countries around the world.
In the not-too-distant past, however, communities on the Cape Flats, organised themselves under the banner of People Against Gangsterism & Drugs (PAGAD) but this movement was quickly shut down by the authorities as PAGAD saw the need to employ a paramilitary response to address the scourge of gangsterism and drugs.
Leaders of the Total Shutdown Movement and members of various communities in Cape Town and Johannesburg have, of late, vowed to intensify the fight against poverty and crime. This movement has correctly located the issue of drugs and gangsterism as a symptom of a deeply rooted socio-economic illness faced by affected communities.
The Total Shutdown Movement has met with Police Minister, Bheki Cele and stern police action in the form of specialised units will be employed. aMabarete and the Gang Unit is not the solution. This, however, is like putting a plaster on a wound. We don’t have a gang and drug problem so much as a youth and socio-economic problem of which gangs are one of the symptoms.
Far too many people are trapped in poverty and we remain a highly unequal society. It is a pandemic that is closely tied to a deprivation trap of marginalisation, isolation, inequality and unemployment.
The implementation of a comprehensive Social Development Plan that focuses on improving the quality of life for the citizens of vulnerable communities and gives direction for future decisions in the key areas as identified by its community members is of paramount importance.
It is all about putting people at the centre of development. It means a commitment from authorities that developmental processes need to benefit people, particularly but not only the poor. It must grant recognition that people, and the way they interact in groups and society, and the norms that facilitate such interaction is resultant facts of the socio-economic conditions under which these people live.
As a country we must earnestly embark on programmes at improving the well-being of every individual in society so they can reach their full potential.
The National Development Plan is a blueprint for how our country can eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by the year 2030 and goes a long way in trying, on a macro way, of doing precisely that but we urgently need to localise social development with speedy interventions. These interventions require the removal of barriers that will enable all citizens to journey towards achieving their dreams with confidence and dignity.
The heartless propagated systematic patterns of poverty, unemployment and inequality in areas such as the Cape Flats cannot solely be blamed on apartheid. Gangsterism has not only found a fertile breeding ground within the socio-economic issues created by apartheid on the Cape Flats but it is the failure of the democratic state, since 1994, to arrest these challenges that have allowed it to spiral out of proportion.
Our young people deserve better educational and economic opportunities. Focused efforts are necessary to eliminate inequality. There is a desire need for faster progress, more action and better implementation of socio-economic interventions as a component of sustainable community development. It must have as its aim the improvement of human well-being in the society which enables people to progress towards self-sufficiency and community growth and development.
Government departments must stop operating in silos and must take a full basket of coordinated and planned services to vulnerable communities to effect change that results in community socio-economic development and upliftment.