The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) says the deployment of the army into problematic crime areas on the Cape Flats could have unintended negative consequences for communities. Minister of Police Bheki Cele announced that soldiers will be deployed to crime hot spots following a spike in murders.

SJC Head of Policy, Dalli Weyers, says they would rather government considered an equitable and rational allocation of police resources in affected communities.

“The army are issued with assault rifles, with machine guns and so the possibility of a shootout happening in any of these spaces could have dire consequences for civilians that are in that space at any given time. We have also seen previously and we know that when the army comes into a space that level of authoritarianism has psychological impact on communities.”

The Police Department says the army will be deployed as a supporting unit for the police to combat crime on the Cape Flats.

The Department’s spokesperson, Reneilwe Serero, says the army’s main purpose is to maintain law and order.

“They coming in as a force multiplier, right now as we speak our specialised units are on the ground. South African Police Service members are on the ground, they are conducting operations. They will then be joined by the SANDF to assist and force multiply the members that are already on the ground. Their role or their mandate that they need to discharge is to assist the SAPS; they are under the command of the South African Police Service and to assist in combating and preventing crime, but most importantly, to maintain law and order and preserve the law.”

Meanwhile, Western Cape Premier Alan Winde says the deployment of the army to gang-ridden areas of the Cape Flats should be seen as an interim measure.

Winde says he’s hopeful that the move will stabilise the affected areas.

“I really welcome it. I think we must all understand that it’s an interim measure and we just now need to get the other part of the process right, the criminal justice system. But this should give the stabilisation and bring peace to our communities now while we actually get the rest of the plan in place to make the Western Cape a safer province.”