By Tauhierah Salie
A troop of South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members was deployed to Delft on Friday morning, in response to violent protests over high levels of crime and poverty. The SANDF was accompanied by the South African Police Service to the area where Blikkiesdorp residents blocked roads with burning tyres and rubble. Symphony Way and Hindle road had been closed but was reopened by noon.
Around 300 people took part in the unofficial protest. Delft Community Policing Forum chairperson pastor Charles George noted that a policeman’s vehicle was also stoned.
It comes as the SANDF rolled into Cape Flats areas such as Hanover Park, Manenberg, Nyanga and Heideveld on Thursday, after great anticipation in light of national police Minister Bheki Cele’s announcement last week.
According to George, protesters demanded to be heard and marched to Delft police station.
“Residents say they are fed up with the crime within the community. They are fed up with regard to housing and living conditions and other social issues. So, they’re wanting to speak to someone from provincial government that will hear their concerns. If not, then they are going to take (this) protest over into Delft area,” George said amid the protest action.
George explained that high levels of crime and unemployment have resulted in a state of poverty for many.
“The community has been asking for a while for SAPS to do something about the crime in the area. As you know there’s been murders, shootings and shacks being burnt down and there was no assistance from government whatsoever. They just feel that they’ve had enough. They’re adamant about speaking to somebody from the government because they need to make sure that government hears their concerns because they can’t live like that any longer.
George also highlighted that there is a break-down in communication between the government and the residents of poorer communities. He cited Western Cape Premier Alan Winde’s maiden State of the Province Address as an example.
George explained that the lack of access by community members contributes to a lack of confidence in the government .
“We have a pocket in the community that don’t have devices, they don’t have access and they don’t have connectivity. Everyone else had heard the message loud and clear. But, for people that don’t have access, they’re not going to hear anything and they’re going to assume government has no plans for them.”
George went on and suggested that there needs to be “communication portals”.
“There isn’t even print media coming into an area like Blikkiesdorp. If you want the information you have to buy the local newspapers. We need to look at some communication portals that will be easy for communities to translate and understand with regard to what the plans are.”
Resident Etienne Claasen stated that the community called for the army to deployed to tackle the scourge as seen in other areas in the Cape Flats.
“Residents want the army to come into Blikkiesdorp and do the same thing they’ve done in Manenberg and Hanover Park. Do the job that the South African Police Service can’t do, because SAPS can’t do their jobs. The SAPS won’t patrol (in Blikkiesdorp). But I think the army will do something different because they will patrol on foot. The police don’t do that because they are too scared to go inside
Claasen went on to emphasise that the City of Cape Town had committed to providing housing but has failed to do so.
“People are sick and tired of staying in Blikkiesdorp now, it’s going on for 12 years. The gang violence is on a high level and these people are afraid for their lives. The City promised us that we are going to move to this new development, so these people are waiting on their housing projects and nothing is happening.
“When are they going to start to clean these bushes and when will they start with the infrastructure in these areas and start building these houses?” questioned Claasen.
“The City is endangering these peoples lives!” he exclaimed.
Meanwhile, George has urged for peace and unity within the community.
“The army has been deployed (today) and will be visible to all community members and we are hoping to turn the tide on crime and let everyone live in peace and harmony.”