Helen Zille's Hopeless Handling of Cape Gang Violence

By Anna Majavu · 13 Jul 2012

A+ A= A-
    Print this page       comments
Picture: The Democratic Alliance/Flickr
Picture: The Democratic Alliance/Flickr

With the DA beginning their campaign to wrest control of another few provinces from the ANC in the 2014 elections, the impoverished residents of Cape Town’s Lavender Hill and Hanover Park have become the latest convenient political footballs.

Like other so-called “Coloured” communities - Delft, Grassy Park, Ocean View and Bishop Lavis - Lavender Hill and Hanover Park remain derelict ghettoes, which appear to be stuck in a long forgotten era. A part-privatised leaky housing development built on top of a wetland there in the 1990s has caused more harm than good, with poor residents having to fork out thousands on bond payments and repairs for damage they didn’t cause. As Eleanor Hoedemaker, a social movement activist from the area says, there hasn’t been any real housing delivery in the area for the past “fifty years”.

Just days after she was elected Cape Town’s mayor in March 2006, Helen Zille was forced to meet with a few hundred backyard residents who had been set upon by the city’s metro police after occupying some land near Lavender Hill. Fearing that her inauguration would be marred, Zille herself arranged a piece of state land in the area for the residents to settle on until they received new government houses in nearby Pelican Park. The residents named that patch of land Zille Raine Heights, partly in Zille’s honour. But their promised houses were never built and a few years later, the city took out an eviction order against them – winning the right to forcefully remove them from the very land they had been instructed to live on while waiting for their new houses.

This is Helen Zille and the DA’s involvement in the communities surrounding Lavender Hill and Hanover Park. Apart from poverty, these communities have been under siege from gangs for decades now. The DA has never done anything to end the drug trade on the Cape Flats and it risks losing thousands of votes in the 2014 elections because of this.

Last week Zille called for the army to be sent into Lavender Hill and Hanover Park, claiming that because of the “meltdown” in the top ranks of the ANC controlled national SAPS, local police had lost their ability to investigate gangs and drug crimes.

But in Cape Town, drug lords have been paying police bribes to protect their business for decades – including during apartheid. This is common practice not only in other parts of Cape Town – to which Zille turns a blind eye - but across the world.

When a political leader calls for the most draconian crackdown on communities – a military occupation - normally unthinkable in a parliamentary democracy, this is more an admission of their own failure to govern than anything else.

The DA has been in power in Cape Town for an uninterrupted six years now, and in control of the province for more than three years. Zille’s mantra is that the DA governs better than the ANC, but this is far from true. The economic policies of both parties are virtual carbon copies of each other, with the DA only differing slightly in its promotion of accelerated privatisation and its desire to do away with any slight protections for workers.

On the ground, both the DA and ANC are equally inept at “governing” since both have failed to provide basic services, decent education and healthcare, jobs or housing for the citizens unfortunate enough to live under their rule.

Their approach to policing is equally similar. The ANC’s refusal to do anything to stamp out the collusion between police and drug lords despite the anguish of the frightened residents shows their disrespect for the poor. There are also questions about why the army was deployed last year at peaceful protests over job allocations outside the new Khayelitsha District Hospital if it is not appropriate to deploy it to stop gunfights between gangs.

And Zille’s call for the army to rush into Hanover Park and Lavender Hill begs a critique of policing by the DA. The DA has never had a problem policing Cape Town when it wants to crush resistance by the poor. Its city administration has a safety and security directorate with a number of specialised units under its control, including the anti-land invasion unit and the anti-copper theft unit.

There doesn’t seem to be any reason why the city’s safety and security directorate does not set up an anti-gang unit. The anti-land invasion unit has been particularly “active” in Gugulethu, Macassar, Mitchells Plain, Delft and Mandela Park, in tearing down hundreds of shacks over the years set up by frustrated back-yard residents.

The Cape Town metro police force itself is seemingly willing and able to engage in brutal gunfights. When they wanted to tear down shacks in another so-called “Coloured” ghetto – Hangberg near Hout Bay in 2010, the Cape Town metro police opened fire with hundreds of rubber bullets, shooting four people’s eyes out.  It seems odd that there is nothing these police can do to fight gangsters in Lavender Hill and Hanover Park.

Community activist Nkwame Cedile, of the Right 2 Know campaign in Cape Town says, “What we are going through in townships is violence of inequality. Zille and the ANC ruling elite are in denial about the violent impact of inequalities. They treat the continued violence as just a community safety issue and I say it is more than that,” said Cedile.

Cape Flats based political activist and academic Shaheed Mahomed says it is in the DA’s interests not to end the drug trade in the city.

“In the 1960’s and 70’s the US state systematically saturated the ghettoes with drugs to break the resistance that had been led by the Black Panther movement. A drugged youth would not lead any resistance.”

Mahomed points to last week’s execution of Lavender Hill Anti-Eviction Campaign activist Soraya Nordien, who was shot at point blank range just a week after being threatened with a gun by Junky Funky gang members. Nordien had been a leader in mobilising the community to set up neighbourhood watches in the area. “The police did nothing about this. The police openly collaborate with gang members,” said Mahomed.

Majavu is a writer concentrating on the rights of workers, oppressed people, the environment, anti-militarism and what makes a better world. She is currently studying for a Masters Degree in New Zealand.

Should you wish to republish this SACSIS article, please attribute the author and cite The South African Civil Society Information Service as its source.

All of SACSIS' originally produced articles, videos, podcasts and transcripts are licensed under a Creative Commons license. For more information about our Copyright Policy, please click here.

To receive an email notification when a new SACSIS article is published, please click here.

For regular and timely updates of new SACSIS articles, you can also follow us on Twitter @SACSIS_News and/or become a SACSIS fan on Facebook.

You can find this page online at http://sacsis.org.za/site/article/1362.

A+ A= A-
    Print this page       comments

Leave A Comment

Posts by unregistered readers are moderated. Posts by registered readers are published immediately. Why wait? Register now or log in!


16 Jul

Police vs Army Competence and Gangs in W/Cape

I have attended a briefing session this morning with the Mayor and DA caucus where this matter was discussed.

Herewith the facts:
The Provincial SAPS is responsible for managing this matter.
The SAPS is a national government competency.
The SAPS must tackle this problem head-on.
The premier and provincial minister are trying their best to intervene in this matter.
The CityofCT metro police and other specializes municipal law enforcement units are successfully intervening with raids and operations.

Respond to this comment

31 Jul

Zille aint the Problem....

ZUMA and the ANC is the problem!!!!!!!!