September 16, 2019 / 1:59 PM / 2 months ago

South African army to stay longer in gang hotspots - Ramaphosa

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - South African soldiers will patrol gang-ridden Cape Town streets for an extra six months after President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday extended their deployment to the end of March 2020.

The army was deployed in July to help quell escalating violence that has killed hundreds this year and that some officials have likened to a war zone.

High rates of unemployment and drug abuse have fueled gang activity in a sprawling area of the city called the Cape Flats.

Bloodshed in the mainly poor, black and mixed-race neighborhood since the beginning of the year has killed more than 2,000 people, almost half gang-related, Western Cape provincial officials said.

“Members of the regular and reserve forces of the SANDF will undertake operations in cooperation with the police, and will support the prevention and combating of crime,” Ramaphosa said in a statement extending the mission for six months.

The original deployment of the national defense force was for a period of two months ending Sept. 16.

The Western Cape provincial government had written to the minister of defense earlier this month requesting that the army deployment to support “Operation Lockdown” be extended.

(This story has been refiled to fix garble in para 3 to read “High” instead of “Hi”)

Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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