'I can't wait for them to get here' - some Cape Flats residents applaud deployment of SANDF

Ebrahiem Adams, 80, is counting down the hours until SANDF soldiers take the streets of Hanover Park.

"I can't wait for them to get here. I have lived here for 50 years and I have had enough. Enough of this shooting and killing," the pensioner said, taking a drag of his cigarette.

"The army can give me a gun and I will shoot the gangsters myself. I am gatvol."

The SA National Defence Force is expected to be deployed in response to rampant gang violence and violent crime plaguing the Cape Flats.

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Adams sat in the sun in Ontario Court, hoping to see the soldiers when they arrive.

"People are being terrorised here. A few years ago, I was sitting in the courtyard when someone started firing. Me, an old man, had to run from the bullets. Is that right? Running away from a gunman at my age?"

Ebrahiem Adams. (Tammy Petersen)
Ebrahiem Adams. (Tammy Petersen)

Operations are expected to take place in the 10 police precincts with the highest attempted murder rates. These include Philippi East, Manenberg and Nyanga.

Hanover Park, which forms part of the Philippi police precinct, also made the list. A bloody gang war has been raging in the area, about 17kms from central Cape Town, for the past three months.

Shafiek Norton said he was relieved that the call for army intervention had finally been heeded.

"The police have shown they can't deal with the problem. They need help. This must be done, in fact it should have happened long ago," he insisted.

READ: They have 'finally heard' our calls - City of Cape Town welcomes army deployment

"Day after day, we see heinous crimes. People don't want to speak to the police because of the rampant corruption. Because, at the end of their shift, they go home. We are the ones still stuck here."

He points out numerous broken windows, shattered by bullets fired at all hours of the day.

"I am ready for the army. Bring in the big guns. It's what we have asked for for so long. It's about time."

After years of calls for army intervention in the Cape Flats' gang-ridden areas, Police Minister Bheki Cele on Thursday announced during his budget vote speech that President Cyril Ramaphosa had agreed to the SANDF supporting the police.

'I don't want the soldiers here'

SANDF head of communications Siphiwe Dlamini told News24 on Friday that the deployment is still going ahead, just not on Friday.

"It will go ahead as soon as we have all the necessary paperwork in order," Dlamini said. 

Cele had previously on numerous occasions rejected the demand, as the soldiers were not trained in policing, or dealing with ordinary citizens, but rather for military situations.

Two years ago, former police minister Fikile Mbalula, at the height of a gang war in Manenberg, promised embattled residents that the army would be dispatched to deal with the bullets and bloodshed in their crime-stricken communities. This never materialised.

Numerous community leaders, however, do not support the deployment, fearing that communities will be criminalised or that it will lead to the return of apartheid-era armed patrols.

Hanover Park community worker Gadija Richards said it was essential to remember that the army wasn't trained to work with civilians.

"The army is taught to shoot to kill. What are they coming to do here? Fighting crime is the duty of the police. They must do their job. Teaching children respect and to stay away from crime is the parent's duty. They must do their job. I don't want the soldiers here. This isn't their place," she said.

hanover park resident
Gadija Richards. (Tammy Petersen)

Meanwhile, former community safety MEC and current Premier Alan Winde - who declared a formal intergovernmental dispute with Cele in April, accusing him of ignoring the province's policing needs – said provincial government and residents had been calling for the army as a peacekeeping and stabilisation force for several years, as crime and gangsterism had spiralled out of control.

"Minister Cele has, until recently, maintained that crime is not bad enough on the Cape Flats to warrant the army going in, but we are relieved by and welcome this about-turn. This a clear admission that the police have lost control of the war on crime, a fact denied by Cele a mere few days ago," he said.

The defence force could provide support and assist with holding perimeters and cordons, "so that police can get on with the work of investigating crime and arresting perpetrators".

City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith commended the deployment in areas where residents have suffered greatly at the hands of gangsters and criminals.

"The crime stats in these communities have truly reached a state of emergency and threaten the stability and reputation of the city as a whole," he said on Friday.

'The tsotsis have become the bosses here'

"I want to point out that the deployment of the military is at best a short-term stop gap to bring peace to these communities and that without the serious problems in the national police force being fixed by national government, who are alone in control of the criminal justice system, the crime problems that exist and the lack of conviction rates for serious and violent crime and gang murders will not improve and our communities will not be given the opportunity to achieve normalisation and progress."

Cele, his deputy Cassel Mathale and national police commissioner General Khehla Sitole briefed dozens of officers during the early hours of Friday morning, ahead of their deployment.

Early morning search and seizure operations were held in Philippi East on Friday.

Mpumi Booi said she felt safer walking the streets of her hometown and waiting on the street corner for her taxi.

"We needed this. Every weekend it is madness here. The tsotsis have become the bosses here. It's not right," she said.

"I don't want to live like this. I want to feel safe, like this, all the time. Why can't things get better?"