South Africa deploys army to the streets of crime-ridden townships

South Africa deploys army to the streets of crime-ridden townships after a surge of murders, shootings and gang violence

  • Soldiers will deploy in Cape Town’s townships after a wave of violent turf wars
  • Troops are to bolster the struggling police, the defence forces announced Friday
  • A battalion is to put boots on the ground within days, although details are scant
  • The ‘intense deployment’ is scheduled to last for three months

The South African army is to deploy a battalion to the murder-ravaged streets of Cape Town after a wave of gangland shootings and violence.

The flailing police forces are to be reinforced for three months in the townships of the Cape Flats area, the head of the country’s defence forces announced on Friday.

Foot and vehicle patrols will be carried out in crime hotspots after Police Minister Bheki Cele described the country as ‘close to a warzone.’

He said ‘extraordinary measures’ were required as murders in the Western Cape province had soared by 6.3 percent from 3,729 to 3,963 during the year to April 2019.

The head of the country’s defence forces announced a battalion would be deployed to the streets of Cape Town’s townships (pictured: South African Army soldiers stand on parade in Pretoria in May this year)

Residents stand outside shacks in Cape Town’s Langa township – the city is surrounded by the slums in which crime has soared in recent months

Soldiers have been used in similar missions before but violence has peaked in recent months in the sprawling townships.

General Solly Shoke, chief of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), said the military ‘will deploy a battalion with support elements during the operation.’

After initially reporting the deployment would begin today, the army has stalled while necessary paperwork is carried out.

Neighbourhoods including Bonteheuwel, Delft, Hanover Park and Philippi East have been plagued by gang-related violence, with the much-criticised police force unable to impose order.

At least 13 people were killed in gun violence in the Philippi East township last weekend, the Independent Online reported. 

Police Minister Cele told parliament yesterday: ‘The recurring scenes of scattered dead bodies in the streets of Phillippi, Mitchells Plain and Nyanga are unbearable.

‘It is on that score than I challenge all generals in the South African police to surrender their uniforms if this situation does not improve.’ 

Cele said an ‘intense deployment’ of the military was required for the coming months.

‘We believe that by the time that time comes, we would have normalised the situation and we’ll sustain that through normal policing,’ he said.

He told parliament: ‘We are confronted with the sad reality of multiple burial activities in cemeteries, more than newborns in maternity wards.’  

Portable toilets stand next to a polluted canal in the crime-ravaged Langa township around six miles from central Cape Town

Cape Town’s crime-ridden Khayelitsha township in this picture taken last week – the government has decided to involve the army to bolster the failing police forces

Cape Town, a international tourist destination with stunning coastal and mountain scenery, has the highest murder rate in the country according to the latest official crime figures.

Last year, over 20,000 people were murdered in South Africa – 57 per day.

Many wealthy people live in fortified homes with high walls topped with electrical wires, CCTV monitoring and armed guards.

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