WATCH Children Cheer as South African Army Enters Cape Flats

In a scene that is at once heartening and heart-breaking, children were filmed today on the Cape Flats in Cape Town, South Africa, cheering and clapping as the army rolled into their neighbourhood.

For many local residents the army’s arrival today brings reassurance and hope for the future. Their wish is that the army stays around long enough to quell the escalating violence, which has seen more than 2,000 people killed in the Western Cape in the past seven months, over half gang-related according to Reuters.

Albert Fritz (Western Cape: Community Safety) told Carte Blanche last week that the simple act of walking to the shops is a risk many Cape Flats residents must take each day. He described the ongoing gang violence as “absolutely frightening” and admitted that “many of our most vulnerable residents in the province are living in a war zone”.

On Thursday – Nelson Mandela Day – one emotional resident told News 24: “We are living in a war zone where the shooters think nothing about life. I am happy (the army is) here; at least we have a few hours of quiet. But what happens when they leave?” She said she hadn’t felt this safe for months.

But while many feel reassured by the presence of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), others warn that armies are trained for warfare, not law enforcement.

Others say this is not a solution. That the real issues – unemployment and drug abuse – need to be urgently addressed.

For these little children – filmed by GroundUp’s Ashraf Hendricks – their happiness was palpable. Perhaps relieved and innocently excited to have soldiers in their streets. Soldiers who will hopefully keep them safe.

WATCH VIDEO: Children cheers as more SANDF personnel arrive in Hanover Park

The SANDF had said last Friday it would deploy a battalion to communities on the Cape Flats, but locals were disappointed…

“For an hour and a half they targeted houses and cordoned off some streets. … They did some raids with the anti-gang unit and the local police,” Kader Jacobs, chairman of the Manenberg Community Policing Forum said.

“I think the people expected the army to be in the area at least between 8 and 12 hours, not a cameo visit of an hour and a half and off you go.”

The deployment to gang strongholds is expected to continue from July to October.

Reuters said: “Famous for its stunning tourist attractions, including Robben Island and Table Mountain, Cape Town has some of South Africa’s highest murder rates, with 3,674 murders recorded in the Western Cape last year, according to police statistics.”

Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said on Wednesday she hoped the army deployment would deter further gang violence.

“It will have to be robust in the beginning to stabilise the situation and have an element of surprise,” she said.

WATCH VIDEO: The Army’s survival guide to the Cape Flats