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25 August, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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Rising crime in post-apartheid South Africa

Lingering social and economic disparities offer vital clues to the importance of an equitable solution for Palestinians
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Rising crime in post-apartheid South Africa
South African National Defence Forces soldier directs a woman during a joint police operation in Cape Flats

JOSEPH DANA

Cape Town’s beachfront promenade is easily one of the most stunning places in the world for a leisurely walk. The prom, as it is known locally, is a hotspot for runners, families and dog walkers. South African President Cyril Ramphosa owns a home just a few blocks away and is often seen embarking on a morning walk when he is in town. Staring out over the ocean in the shadow of Table Mountain, it is tempting to bask in the impossible miracle that is modern-day South Africa. From the depths of apartheid to one of the world’s most progressive countries, the evolution of democratic South Africa is a marvel.

Nearly three decades ago, the country was mired in one of the most unequal and violent colonial experiments in recent history. Millions of South Africans were systematically deprived of their rights while a select minority enjoyed the full economic benefits of the country’s ample resources. South Africa was isolated, its archaic hierarchy belonging to another century.

While the apartheid system might have officially crumbled, the legacy of the social and political experiment has been difficult to unravel. Despite South Africa’s robust democracy, free press and fair elections, apartheid has shed its skin like a chameleon, yet still exists in purely economic terms. Cape Town’s idyllic promenade is just 30 kilometres from one of the most dangerous plots of land on Earth, the Cape Flats.

Decades of uneven development and lack of services have stifled the prospects of millions of South Africans of lifting themselves out of poverty. Vast shanty towns known as townships are plagued by crime, drugs and violence. The Cape Flats, a collection of shanty towns on a windswept and barren patch of land between Table Mountain and the salubrious regions of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, are the epicentre of the uptick in violence.

Gang violence is so bad in the Cape Flats that the South African government took the unusual step of sending in military patrols. In wealthy areas on the Atlantic coastline like Camps Bay, the number of police per 100,000 residents was about 887 from 2013 to 2017, according to Bloomberg. In the Delft neighbourhood in the Cape Flats, the ratio of officers was only 168 per 100,000 residents over the same timespan, despite 445 murders being committed per 100,000 residents.

In images reminiscent of the apartheid struggle, military vehicles replete with assault rifle-toting soldiers now patrol the Cape Flats. This time, however, residents are cheering on the soldiers instead of throwing stones at them. After eight years of neglect by the government of former president Jacob Zuma, rival gangs have grown dramatically in size and power on the Cape Flats. An influx of weapons has made the turf battles deadly. The violence is merely a symptom of the larger challenge of equality in post-apartheid South Africa and the inability of the African National Congress (ANC) government to invest properly in the areas neglected for decades by apartheid.

Nearly three decades since the end of that legacy of racial division, South Africa remains one of the world’s most unequal societies. Unemployment is rife in the country, with 53 per cent of people aged between 15 and 24 out of work. Under Zuma, vital state entities such as the national electricity company were deprived of resources, due to a system of massive corruption known locally as state capture.

Without the revenue to perform upgrades, rolling blackouts are a common occurrence in the summer months. These factors have left South Africa’s investment grade hovering around junk status, further compounding the dire situation for citizens. Given concerns of a possible global recession, the South African economy is showing signs of worsening before it improves.

 

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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