South African National Defence Force (SANDF) members stationed in gang hotspots across the Cape Town area will not celebrate Christmas this year.
The SANDF members have been deployed since July to help the police in crime fighting operations. The SANDF are present in 10 gang infested neighbourhoods.
Provincial politicians and communities had been pleading with relevant authorities for the deployment of the army for years and an unprecedented hike in gang related deaths earlier this year led to the deployment finally happening.
After months in the gang ridden neighbourhoods many residents are questioning the effectiveness of the SANDF’s presence.
Over a thousand soldiers have been assigned to help police in their crime fighting efforts with a total budget of R23 million.
SANDF spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini said the soldiers were deployed on a rotational basis to ensure they were at full capacity over the festive season.
“After a certain period of time, you rotate certain members and bring in new members who’ve been training and on standby to come in.”
When the programme commenced, the soldiers were supposed to be deployed for three months but in September, President Cyril Ramaphosa said their deployment will be extended until March 2020.
Military and defence analyst Helmoed Heitman believes that this is a hopeful sign.
“With the extension of six months, assuming the police have been doing their job properly, that should’ve bought them time to build an intelligence picture and before the army leaves, go and pull out the key leaders out of the gangs and neutralise them that way.”
However in the long run, the future of the people of the Cape Flats ganglands demands a wholly integrated plan being instituted to address the causes of the violence.