Gangs take over

HAZEL ALLIES-HUSSELMAN

Residents of Manenberg and Bonteheuwel have likened the gang violence in the community to that of war-torn countries.

Between Friday April 1 and Monday April 11, a total of 26 people have been killed in both communities – 14 in Manenberg and 12 in Bonteheuwel. During this same period, another 14 attempted murders were also reported in Manenberg – all gang-related. The situation has escalated to such an extent, that it is no longer confined to certain pockets of the community, but has spread throughout, community leaders say.

During the early morning hours of Monday April 11, a 33-year-old man was killed just outside the fence of Manenberg High School.

Manenberg SAPS spokesman Lieutenant Ian Bennett said: “Neighbours in Tibas Street heard gunshots, and when they came out, they discovered the lifeless body of the man. Four spent cartridges were found on the scene.”

Later, on Monday, another man was killed in Pecos Walk in a gang-related attack.

Lieutenant Bennett said the police had also recovered 13 weapons over the weekend.

“The area remains volatile, as gangs remain in conflict,” Lieutenant Bennett said.

Manenberg High School principal Thurston Brown said gang violence had always been a challenge in the community, but that Monday morning’s incident “was the first time someone had been killed right next to the school fence”.

Mr Brown appealed to parents to let their children stay at school when shootings happened, and not fetch them.

“I know parents are concerned, like any parent would be, but the children are safer at school. If they take the chance to go home, they might get caught in the crossfire,” he said.

Mr Brown said teachers allowed their pupils to talk about how they felt, before continuing with lessons, to help them deal with the trauma associated with the violence.

In more severe cases, the school calls in the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) district office to help with counselling.

“Our parent meetings are held at night, and when the area is volatile, we have to cancel them. Also, because of the threat it poses to play sport on the school sports field – as much as it pains me – we might have to consider stopping it. I feel that we must not succumb to this apathy, but it’s a thin line when it comes to ensuring our pupils’ safety. It’s almost like apartheid – where we couldn’t play sport in an abnormal society,” Mr Brown said.

Roegchanda Pascoe, the chairwoman of the Manenberg Safety Forum (MSF), said it seemed like the lives of the people on the Cape Flats were not valued. Ms Pascoe disputed the number of people killed since the start of the month. She believes as many as two to three people are being killed every day.

“The MSF counted that by Thursday April 7, 19 people were killed in Manenberg alone. Over this weekend, we counted another eight that were killed. We are calling on everybody on the Cape Flats to show solidarity, so that we can put pressure on local, provincial and national government to get the resources we need. I am praying for a miracle for the Cape Flats. The way things are going now, it is only God that is keeping me sane,” she said.

Lieutenant Bennett said Manenberg SAPS had “saturated the area with additional members”.

“The shooting continues, because the community remains quiet about the perpetrators of the shooting and illegal firearms and ammunition.

“The only way to stop the gang conflict is to get the community actively involved in crime prevention. They must report all criminal activity. The community’s mindset needs to change to address the gang situation fully.

“SAPS members and all external forces, which include Metro police and law enforcement’s stability unit, will remain deployed within the area of conflict,” Lieutenant Bennettt said.

Ms Pascoe said she respected the police officers, who risked their lives “for strangers”, but residents still “do not know who to trust, because of corruption”.

Judith Kennedy, from the Bonteheuwel Joint Peace Forum (JPF), echoed Ms Pascoe’s statement that the community still mistrusted the police. Both women also said the gangs are now using “heavy artillery”.

“The question remains: where do they get these machine guns? It feels like a war zone, and lots of innocent people have been killed in the process,” Ms Kennedy said.

Bishop Lavis SAPS spokeswoman, Captain Marie Louw, said police had been called out to Bonteheuwel many times over the weekend, as the gang war continued.

Between Thursday April 7 and Saturday April 9, a 45-year-old man was shot and killed in Jakkalsvlei Avenue, and five other men were shot in separate incidents – among them, a 16-year-old who was shot in his face in Jasmine Street, on Saturday April 9.

In one of the incidents , a 56-year-old man survived an assassination attempt, allegedly meant for his son, on Friday April 8, at 10.30pm.

Said Captain Louw: “The victim alleges that he arrived home and stopped in front of his gate. While still seated in his Ford Laser he noticed a white VW Citi Golf stop behind him. The unknown occupants fired several shots at his vehicle, resulting in him lying flat on the seat. The white VW Citi Golf with an unknown registration number then sped off in an unknown direction. The victim escaped the ordeal unharmed. The victim alleges that his son, a member of the Oka gang, is normally the driver of the vehicle, and it’s believed that rival gang members were looking for him.”