“I can say that we are seeing a decline, particularly in those we identified as high-risk areas,” Mthethwa said on the sidelines of the meet and greet with Manenberg residents in Cape Town.
“Nationally, we are not talking about more than 10 areas. It’s few and we are hoping on election day there will be fewer areas precisely because of this interaction with communities and the deployment [of police].”
Mthethwa, Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, and Correctional Services Minister Sibusiso Ndebele went on a walkabout in several gang-plagued areas in the Cape Peninsula to assess the election readiness.
Manenberg was considered high risk as a result of gang shootings which claimed dozens of lives in the past few years.
The violence reached a critical point last year when schools in the area had to be closed as a result of pupils being caught in the crossfire.
Over the past few months, the number of shooting incidents had decreased with the additional deployment of police to the area.
Mthethwa said he was “certain” that Manenberg and other high-risk areas in the country would be stable on election day.
“We are certain. This is the fifth time we have the national and provincial elections. We have always had reservations around this time, tempers going up and so on, but what it is important is that we have been focused in understanding all the problems in each and every community and our deployment is going to be according to that,” Mthethwa said.
“Here in Manenberg, people are going to vote. Nothing will happen to them. We will be here.”
Mthethwa and his fellow ministers chatted with several residents before leaving for Hanover Park, another gang hotspot in the Cape.
As the entourage walked past a man commenting that he was eating “koek”, Cwele asked him if there was “coke” in the packet he was holding.
“It’s not coke. It’s a cake. I’m a non-smoker. I baked it myself. It’s my birthday,” Kenneth Marinus said.
“I’m an old gangster. I was born 1961. I was a leader that time. I’m rehabbed now.”
Cwele shouted to his correctional services counterpart: “Come and meet the old gangster.”
Marinus informed them he had been released from prison last year after serving time behind bars for various gang-related crimes at several prisons.
“I was in Pollsmoor and I go on a hunger strike because of the things happening there and after that they send me to Port Elizabeth. I don’t do crime anymore but there’s no work,” he told Ndebele.
Ndebele asked Marinus if he intended going back to prison.
“There’s no benefit in prison. The benefit is outside by your wife and children. All I need is a job. I don’t want to steal and go back to prison,” Marinus said.
Ndebele asked the reformed gangster for his number so a prison official could contact him for possible volunteer work inside prisons.
“Prison number or gang number,” Marinus asked.
“No, telephone number,” Ndebele replied laughing.