Cape Town — Look, I don't know what it's like to live in a township. I have never experienced gunshots going off on a daily basis. I have never dodged bullets on my way to school, neither have my children. I have never had people I know shot and killed in front of me, or killed in a drive-by shooting.
I live a pretty-much okay life in the suburbs here in Cape Town. But about 15 minutes away from where I live, there are communities with the most vulnerable being children, living this reality every day. I have family who live in Hanover Park and Mitchells Plain who share horror stories.
I'm sure that if a study is done on those children and their parents for levels of post-traumatic stress, the results would go through the roof. I sometimes wonder if the drug and alcohol abuse in areas like this (not saying this doesn't happen in the suburbs) and the growing sense of helplessness among parents is not influenced by the knowledge that their children will more than likely be recruited into gangs, made to deal in drugs from 10 years of age or even younger, or recruited at that tender age to hold a gun and kill for gangs.
I can only sympathise with all those who lost loved ones to gang activity. I don't think I'd be able to imagine the pain they are going through.
So I am very happy, ecstatic actually, that the government has finally heard the pleas of the people of the townships in the Western Cape and are sending in the army. The cynic in me would say that this is an electioneering ploy by the African National Congress (ANC) which once again lost the province to the Democratic Alliance (DA) in the 2019 presidential elections. However, I do think that Minister of Police Bheki Cele has been moved by the anguish and devastation that he has seen and heard. As hard as it may be for the minister to admit, the police have in many instances, lost the battle against gangs and crime in the Western Cape. Communities accuse police of being complicit and working hand-in-hand with gangs, facilitating their unlawful activities.
Now many critics are already saying that this army move is wrong. So I ask them: what is the right move? Do you live in a township? People who live there need short-term action to bring meaningful change - so what must they do? People are dying every day and the mainstream media doesn't even bother reporting on it anymore, it's so common.
This is a war, people.
What other quick solution can be given to those who are losing loved ones, fathers, mothers, brothers, sons, daughters, grandchildren, children, friends, cousins, aunts, uncles? Open up your community newspapers to read the truth about life on the Cape Flats, where bodies are found riddled with gunshot wounds almost every day.
Must a taskforce be set up, must talk shops be organised, must we have psychologists come by to discuss the nature of gangs and gangsterism and why gangs exist and oh, the really good one, the rehabilitation of gangsters?
So yes, gangsters too have family and they too are complicit in hiding their gangster children from authorities or live in denial about their activities. Many would say gangsters also have rights. Yes they do. However, did the person they forced to join them, whom they got hooked onto drugs, young girls forced into sex work, those innocent children killed by stray bullets, those who were maimed, have rights? The right to make their own choices, the right to life?
Someone once said for every person killed in a community, particularly by violent means, a whole generation is lost. This is so true. What could that person and their descendants have not contributed positively in a community and to the nation itself.
The Apartheid system has really messed things up in a myriad of ways and has left Coloured and Black people completely disadvantaged for over 40 years (hundreds actually). It may have been abolished and democracy is now over 25 years old, but we are still reaping the pain of that era, sadly, even the younger generation who never grew up in that time. Townships were essentially borne out of forced removals of our people, where little or no development ever happened on a social level in particular and where education levels were low. Where jobs were mainly low-paying ones in factories.
I remember back in the 1980s when the army were in townships with a completely different agenda, keeping the flame of Apartheid alive and well, with many, many innocents being killed. Maybe it's naive of me but I would like to believe that the fight is different, so the method should be different.
So for me, the army is a good move, but communities must remember that there will be new rules and laws in their areas and while the army is there that must be adhered to. Co-operation is the key. Communities needs to stand together and work with them to root out criminal elements that keep them and their children hostage.
Rid the townships of the gangsters and work with the innocent people who want to strive for a better life for themselves and their children.
And maybe, just maybe an era of "normalcy" - complete silence from guns - will return to townships and people would be able to walk, run, play and work and go to school as freely as they were meant to.
And hopefully the gangsters and corrupt police on their payrolls will be rooted out permanently and not move into remote towns to carry on with their nefarious activities.
The other alternative I always thought would be great was if gangsters were all moved to Robben Island to fight over turf, surf and a sprinkling of drugs.
The opinions of the writer are not necessarily those of allAfrica.com