CAPE TOWN      -         Soldiers have begun patrolling poor neighbourhoods on the outskirts of Cape Town in a controversial move aimed at curbing gang violence.

The South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, signed off last week on the decision to send the army into the Cape Flats, a sprawling area of townships that is a legacy of the repressive and racist apartheid regime’s policy of separating white and non-white communities.

Bloodshed over the past seven months in mainly poor black and mixed-race areas has killed more than 2,000 people, almost half gang-related, provincial officials said.

The South African National Defence Force said it was deploying a battalion of several hundred soldiers with support elements to back up the police, who have struggled to contain the violence.

“For an hour and a half they targeted houses and cordoned off some streets