Festive season of fear

Bonteheuwel residents were once again caught in the grip of fear as gang violence erupted over the festive season.

One person was killed and another wounded in the week leading up to the new year.

Bishop Lavis police station commander Brigadier Christopher Jones said there had been some sporadic shootings in the early morning hours of Sunday January 1, but no-one had been injured.

Brigadier Jones said a heavy police presence in the area on Friday December 30 had helped to contain weekend gang violence.

Many of the shooting incidents had happened in the A-block and B-block (street names which start with the letters A and B), he said.

“The shooting incidents mostly happened around the Bramble Way, Boekenhout, and Amandel streets. The gang fight in that vicinity is between the Americans and the Bad Boys,” Brigadier Jones said.

On Tuesday December 27, Ward 50 councillor Angus Mckenzie was caught in the middle of a gang fight. Mr Mckenzie said he had been on his way to the opening of the Bonteheuwel Night Market when he responded to calls from residents about a shooting incident in Vlamboom Road.

Police, already on the scene when he arrived, had confirmed that a 25-year-old man had been wounded in a shootout between the Hard Livings and Red Devils gangs.

Despite the police’s presence, gangsters had started shooting at one another again, said Mr Mckenzie, adding that he had had to crawl to safety.

He said it was encouraging that more residents were speaking out against gang violence.

“The community is demanding police service, and because of this, more people are speaking out. The more we highlight where the problems are, the better. “Generally, there has been a reduction in crime. The flare-ups are around gang territory. People are reporting drug dealing in one area, then (the dealers) move on to another area, and many times this is in a rival gang’s territory, which leads to the shootings,” Mr Mckenzie said.

Brigadier Jones said two police vehicles had been damaged in the Vlamboom Road shooting and an officer was injured when glass splinters from a smashed windscreen struck his eye.

Yusuf Cassiem, from the Bonteheuwel Joint Peace Forum (JPF), said residents’ safety was a top priority for the organisation.

“Things were relatively quiet in the S-block and T-block over the New Year’s weekend, but there were some sporadic shootings. As the JPF, we have committed ourselves to meet early this year to see if we need another approach to deal with the gang violence,” Mr Cassiem said.

On Saturday December 24, JPF chairwoman Judith Kennedy posted this message on Facebook: “Once again, our beloved Bonteheuwel finds itself in the grips of gang and drug violence during the festive season. The indiscriminate killing of our youth and community members is something that is simply not acceptable in any circumstances.

“As the Joint Peace Forum, we commit ourselves once again to the fight against a minority who think they have the right to decide the destiny of our children and our community. We will not allow our Bonteheuwel to become a gangland-controlled area. We will fight this scourge on every platform and in every peaceful way possible. We call on all authorities, local, provincial and national, to live up to their claimed roles as representatives of the people and actually take our community’s concerns seriously. We will not give in to political expediency.

“Our fight is for a better and safer Bonteheuwel, and we will forever be looking for alternatives that can change the lives of our people.

“We wish all peace-loving people of Bonteheuwel a blessed and safe festive season. Let us always remember that we matter, that Bonteheuwel matters and that the future of our children matters.”