Gang violence threatens to flare up – again

After two months of peace and quiet, gang violence has raised its ugly head in Athone again.

While residents of Bokmakierie have been enjoying two months of peace with no gang violence in the area, chairperson of the Athlone Community Police Forum (CPF), Aziza Kannemeyer, is worried that might soon come to an end.

According to Ms Kannemeyer, the safety of the already rattled and a fed up community is again being threatened after a fight broke out between rival youth gangs last Saturday.

One boy was stabbed in the back and the other in the chest.

Ms Kannemeyer said the police were called to intervene and while there has been calm since then, she is worried about a retaliation, especially as residents are looking forward to a safe and happy festive season.

She said a peace agreement had been reached among the bigger gangs on Saturday October 7.

“We approached all of them and said the community deserves peace and freedom and are tired of dodging bullets and burying their loved ones. Everyone was open to the idea but the meeting was very tense. The community anxiously waited outside to hear the result and people were happy.

“There were, however, those gang leaders who are still hurting over lost family members and found it difficult to agree to the peace,” she said.

She said the fight between the youth gangs might shatter the peace.

She said the CPF is urging parents to take control of their children as youth gangs are made up of 13 to 17 year olds.

“These gang members are seen in the streets with bottles of expensive alcohol, weapons, and drugs and it has become a norm. Everyone looks the other way because they are in denial. Parents and especially grandparents don’t want to acknowledge it. They need to stop spoiling the kids and put their foot down.

“It is either because of a lack of a father figure or a lack of parenting skills,” she said.

Ms Kannemeyer said in order to keep the peace in the area, gang bosses needed to respect the right of people to move around freely as they want to live in a safe space.

“Parents also need to observe their children and keep them busy and in the case where there is often no money, they can take their children to holiday programmes in the area,” she said.

Athlone police station spokeswoman, Sergeant Zita Norman, said while the police had no report of the fight, officers are on high alert for the festive season.

“We have increased visibility in the area. If any resident feels their safety is being threatened they can come to us.

“Everything is quiet for now, but if anything happens we are contactable,” she said.