The South African National Defence Force will deploy soldiers in Cape Town’s crime-ridden townships after a surge of shootings, gang violence and murders in one of the country’s top tourist destinations.
In the statement released by the Defence Ministry, a battalion will be deployed to bolster the city’s struggling police force for three months, patrolling on foot and in vehicles through districts that have been identified as criminal hotspots.
Soldiers have been used in similar missions in Cape Town 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.
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.
In a crime last Friday which made national headlines, six women between the ages of 18 and 26 were murdered when unknown gunmen entered a home and opened fire.
The next day another five men, aged 18 to 39, were shot dead and one was injured in two separate shooting incidents in Philippi, said Albert Fritz, a Western Cape provincial official tasked with ensuring community safety.
“In the Western Cape, 1,875 people were murdered in the past six months alone. This means that many of our most vulnerable residents in the province are living in a war zone,” Fritz said after more than a dozen murders over one weekend last month.
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,” Cele added.
According to Cele, murders in the Western Cape province, which includes Cape Town, increased by 6.3% from 3,729 to 3,963 during the year to April 2019.
“We’ll go door to door, we’ll collect every illegal firearm, we’ll collect all criminals that we want, we’ll collect all outstanding criminals that have been on bail and that is happening from two o’clock this (Friday) morning,” Cele told reporters.
Cape Town, an 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.