It has been exactly one month since Police Minister Bheki Cele gave the soldiers of SANDF their marching orders, and sent them to patrol the Cape Flats in a bid to curb the spiralling crime rate in gangster-ridden suburbs.
The project was maligned by some, feared as an unwanted “militarisation” of the South African Police Service. However, Cele brought some receipts with him to a press briefing on Monday, which suggests the bold move to deploy the army in a law enforcement capacity has already yielded some positive results.
Cele to criminals: “Your days are numbered!”
The Minister confirmed that the project was still in its “early days” and much more needs to be achieved. However, he remained mainly positive about SANDF’s influence and issued a warning to criminals on the Cape Flats.
“The additional forces on the ground remain committed in ridding Cape Town communities of gang violence and its manifestations. We acknowledge that crime is stabilising, however, we would love to see the figures dropping even further.”
“It’s important to note Operation Lockdown remains a temporary initiative. On the policing front, we need to prepare ourselves for a period when these additional forces are withdrawn. I have said this before: Criminals – particularly gangsters and gang leaders – your days are numbered!”
#PoliceMinistry Under the auspices of the #NATJOINTS, the integrated forces embarked on various intell driven ops, raids, cordon & searches, road blocks & VCP at about 15 identified precincts since 12/07.
Since the start of the ops:
1004 arrested for various crimes ME
— SA Police Service (@SAPoliceService) August 12, 2019
Have SANDF reduced crime on the Cape Flats?
Cele also discussed what major achievements “Operation Lockdown” had been responsible for since they were given the green light to get their boots on the ground. Monday is exactly a month to the day since they first arrived at the Cape Flats, and some of the numbers reeled off during the media briefing do seem impressive:
- 1 004: As in, One-thousand-and-four suspects, have been arrested for various crimes including murder, attempted murder, armed robberies and hijackings.
- 806: The number of “wanted” suspects who have been found and busted for a series of crimes, including domestic violence, armed robbery, hijacking, assault and GBH.
- 20: Members of the same notorious gang who have been hauled in front of the Western Cape High Court.
- 1 159: The total number of dangerous weapons and armoury confiscated in the past month, including 1 036 pieces of ammunition, 78 knives, and 45 firearms.
- 15: The amount of precincts SANDF have been active in, since 12 July.
Where SANDF have fallen short on the Cape Flats
However, their strides forward have been halted by some more cold, hard facts – the ones which feature in the weekly murder rate. Killings have increased in the past seven days, with this past weekend being the worst for murders since SANDF’s deployment. A total of 47 fatalities were recorded, including the high-profile case of Meghan Cremer.
Gun violence has increased and 13 deaths by stabbings were recorded over the long weekend. Further to this, medical services for the Cape Flats are reaching their breaking point: Some facilities are overwhelmed by the injuries caused by rampant crime, and have to postpone “less severe” cases in the meantime, straining the Western Cape’s budget in the process.
The economic impact of high crime rates
Alan Winde, the Premier of the Western Cape, responded to the spike in murders on Monday. He fears that a continued cycle of violence will eventually harm the province’s ability to grow economically, thus perpetuating the same type of behaviour that has terrorised this part of the south-west:
“We see the impact of violence on children and teachers in schools and it impacts our ability as a province, to attract the investment we need in order to grow the economy and create jobs which assist in solving the crime crisis in this province. We have to make fighting crime a priority for everyone.”
“I call on everyone to play their part in making this province safer. I encourage everyone to do whatever they can- whether it be joining a neighbourhood watch, or volunteering with or supporting organisations like the Pink Ladies or Rape Crisis.”
It’s perhaps too early to declare Operation Lockdown a success or a failure, but based on figures which both compliment and criticise their deployments, it’s clearly a case of taking two steps forward and one step back. For now, our soldiers will continue their march towards cleaning-up crime on the Cape Flats.
(Source: The South African)