Cape Flats: ‘It took 11 innocent lives for the government to finally listen to our pleas’

A resident said it felt as if a black fog had enveloped the Philippi East community.
A resident said it felt as if a black fog had enveloped the Philippi East community.

Soldiers join forces with the police to put a stop to the unending crime on the Cape Flats. Jaco Marais took the pictures.

‘Too little, too late.”

That’s what residents of Philippi East in Cape Town say about the placement of additional police officers and the imminent deployment of the army to their neighbourhood this week.

Police Minister Bheki Cele announced a joint operation between the police and the SA National Defence Force in the gang-infested areas of the Cape Flats, including Philippi East, Hanover Park, Nyanga, Khayelitsha, Manenberg and Bishop Lavis.

The move was sparked by a spate of killings in which 11 people were gunned down in Philippi East last weekend; two others were killed in Hanover Park.


In the early hours of Friday morning Philippi East residents received a rude awakening as police raided their homes.

And, while most welcomed the additional police presence and the deployment of the army, some questioned why it took so long.

“It took 11 innocent lives for the government to finally listen to our pleas for the deployment of the army in this area. We have been pleading with the police ministry to deploy the army here because clearly the police kept failing us,” said resident Mlungisi Sonyabashe.

“Even when a number of lives were lost in the Marikana area last year we pleaded with then minister Fikile Mbalula to speak to his government colleagues and deploy more police and army officers.”


Another resident said it felt as if a black fog had enveloped the Philippi East community.

“We are living in fear every day here. These tsotsis are terrorising our community and we can’t do anything about it. I just hope the deployment of the army is going to stabilise the situation. It has become common to witness people being robbed, or waking up to find a corpse lying on the street. A lot of blood has been spilt here and it is enough now,” she said.


Another said a number of criminals had recently been released from prison and there were rumours in the area of “revenge attacks” between rival gangs.

Meanwhile, the family of one of last weekend’s victims said they were struggling to come to terms with their daughter’s death.

Lelethu Njikazi (16) was among six women killed last Friday night when unknown gunmen stormed the home in the Marcus Garvey area. The Grade 11 pupil at Phandulwazi High School was visiting to do her hair at a friend’s place when she was killed. Her family told City Press that Lelethu had told them that afternoon she would be back as soon as she had finished.


Her uncle, Vukile Njikazi, said they received the devastating news that their “shy” Lelethu was dead on Saturday morning.

“It is extremely hard for us as a family to accept that we won’t see her beautiful smile again. She was a sweet and obedient child who was not mischievous,” he said.

“Her mother, Phumeza, who is in the Eastern Cape, is not taking this well at all. Everyone in the street can attest that she was a good youngster who never had a problem with anyone.

“I guess she was just at the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said.


Cele’s visit to Philippi East this week to assure residents that “arrests are imminent” provided little comfort for the Njikazi family.

“It will never bring back our daughter. Our hearts are bleeding for Lelethu and it will take more than promises from authorities for us to heal from this deep wound that her death has left us with,” Vukile said.


What do you make of the army being sent in to a civilian area? Do you think this is an appropriate response? What do you think should be done?

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