Call to declare gangsterism a state of disaster

The Bishop Lavis Community Police Forum and residents are compiling a safety plan to present to police as sporadic shootings continue to terrorise the community.

The government needs to declare gangsterism a national state of disaster, says a community police forum boss who is working on a plan to free the Cape Flats from the gangs’ rule of fear and murder.

The Bishop Lavis Community Police Forum (CPF) and residents are compiling a safety plan to present to police as sporadic shootings continue to terrorise the community.

The CPF’s chairman, Graham Lindhorst, says the plan covers the entire precinct: Bishop Lavis, Bonteheuwel, Valhalla Park, Kalksteenfontein, Kriefgat, Montana and Netreg.

The safety plan calls for regular police patrols and outlines steps to tackle unemployment, domestic violence, at-risk youth, gender violence, and other social ills all feeding the gangsterism behemoth.

Mr Lindhorst said three people had been killed in the precinct since the beginning of the month. In the latest incident, a 60-year-old man was shot five times in the face in Bitterblaar Street, Bonteheuwel, on Wednesday July 15.

Bonteheuwel ward councillor Angus McKenzie blamed the sporadic shooting on gangsters who were trying to assert their dominance in the area. They were mostly firing shots into the sky between 11pm and midnight.

There is no “shot spotter” programme in Bonteheuwel, but Mr McKenzie said law enforcement responded swiftly to residents’ tip-offs.

There had been seven murders in Bonteheuwel in June, he said.

“All of the shootings that took place have been drive-by shootings which seems to be a new way of killing people. It is extremely difficult to police drive-by shootings, which gangsters know. Most vehicles have been stolen or number plates changed so that police can’t track them.”

The community was tired of living in fear, he said.

“Residents appreciate that the death rate has come down, but what frustrates them is that gangsterism continues. Residents feel helpless, they don’t know what else to do. Although we have reduced the murder rate, people still continue to die, and we need to get to the bottom of it.”

According to Mr Lindhorst Bonteheuwel’s B, F and T blocks are shooting hot spots in a battle over gang turf.

“Someone might have been out of action and in jail for a while and comes back and now wants to assert his dominance again. Residents are so fed up about the shootings which have continued for years already. They want to know why SAPS can’t come up with a solution.”

The community would put pressure on the authorities to enact the safety plan over short, medium and long-term time frames, he said.

The area was tense now, and gangsters exploited the cover of darkness provided by Eskom load-shedding, he said.

“Load shedding is something that our people hate: they fear for their lives because gangsters take advantage of this. They use this time to steal electricity cables and commit burglaries and shoot at each other. The government needs to declare gangsterism a state of national disaster. We cannot sleep; these politicians must come sleep here and see their children getting robbed and killed.”

Bishop Lavis police station commander Brigadier Christopher Jones said the police knew the community was angry, but he appealed to residents to come forward and identify perpetrators.

Residents should also run from a crime scene and not towards it, he said.

“We use what we can to get the crime generators behind bars as this always brings calm,” he said.

“Currently the fight is between the Jesters, Americans and Bad Boys in Bonteheuwel. In Bishop Lavis, the 28s are infighting. The fight is about criminalised profits on drugs, guns, illegal cigarettes, abalone and even prostitution.”

Abie Clayton, chairman of the Community of Bonteheuwel Association, said that as the shooting continued, it was the innocent and the elderly who were dying.

“Once the police leave the area, the shooting continues a few days later,” he said. “Residents are quite upset, but no one speaks about it. Residents now know it is a norm to happen in the area. If communities can stand together and do something then it can be stopped, but that is difficult as they are scared and fear for their lives. Sometimes it’s gangsters from outside who come into the area and cause havoc.”