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South African military set to deploy against Cape Town gangs


South African military PHOTO: AFP/File / GIANLUIGI GUERCIA<br />

South African soldiers will deploy in Cape Town’s crime-ridden townships after a surge of shootings, gang violence and murders, the head of the country’s defence forces said Friday.

The military reinforcements will bolster the city’s struggling police forces for three months, patrolling on foot and in vehicles districts identified as criminal hotspots.

Soldiers have been used in similar missions before but violence has peaked in recent months in the sprawling townships of the Cape Flats area, one of the most violent places in South Africa.


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.”

The size of the deployment was not revealed nor the start date, expected to be within days.

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.

Police Minister Bheki Cele said the “intense deployment” of the military would last three 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.

According to Cele, murders in the Western Cape province that includes Cape Town increased by 6.3 percent from 3,729 to 3,963 during the year to April 2019.

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 — and Cele has described the country as “close to the war zone.”

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

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