President Cyril Ramaphosa walked through Hanover Park on Friday declaring that the shooting had stopped thanks to the work of the new police anti-gang unit. And he was right.
But inside his large security cordon‚ which was surrounded by a larger and more heavily armed ring of men in military fatigues and balaclavas‚ Ramaphosa had a sanitised view of the violence on the Cape Flats.
Walking alongside Western Cape Premier Helen Zille‚ police minister Bheki Cele and national police commissioner Khehla Sitole‚ Ramaphosa passed the area where Gift of the Givers volunteer Ameerodien Noordien was killed in a gang shooting last month.
He offered his condolences to the 28-year-old’s grieving father‚ Mogamat Alwie‚ and told community members that “the guns have fallen silent”.
The weeks after Noordien’s death have indeed brought a semblance of peace — which simply means an absence of gunfire — to the community.
But as the president entered a courtyard between four blocks of flats and started addressing residents with the words “the government is behind you”‚ the dynamics which make the Cape Flats so difficult to police played out around him.
Local gang bosses don’t live in the flats‚ but they came to watch the parade and to see who was talking to the police‚ reporters or the president. Residents watched the president from stairwells and balconies.
Ramaphosa’s language delighted them. “He’s speaking Afrikaans!” said one. “Of course‚ it’s our mother tongue‚” said her husband. “That is what a king does. He comes out to his people and puts the interests of his people on his heart.”
Since the anti-gang unit had started patrolling Hanover Park a few weeks before its official launch on Friday‚ there had been almost no shooting incidents‚ residents said‚ and children were able to play outside.
“It makes kids and parents restful. When there’s a shooting‚ everyone runs‚ you must see it ... You just pull the nearest child into your home no matter whose it is‚” said a resident who did not want to be named because of what he said next: “They first need to sort out the corrupt police.”
Then they explained what Ramaphosa could not see. On the opposite side of the courtyard where the president was greeting Alwie sat a man known as Grysie.
A metro police officer approached him‚ greeted him respectfully and laughed at his joke.
Then a uniformed SAPS officer greeted him with the same respect.