Hanover Park residents demand an end to killings

More than 150 Hanover Park residents marched to Philippi police station to demand an end to gang killings.

The Hanover Park community has again called for an end to gang violence after eight people were slain in the neighbourhood in the space of a week.

More than 150 residents – including representatives from the Alcardo Andrews Foundation; Moms Move for Justice, Peace and Reconciliation; and sports clubs – marched to the Philippi police station on Tuesday March 23, complaining of being held hostage by gang shootings.

They handed a memorandum to the station commander, Colonel Adriaan Saulse, and the head of the Anti-Gang Unit (AGU), Major General André Lincoln.

They complained that police investigations into several cases had stalled, sometimes for up to a decade, and that investigating officers failed to keep victims or victims’ families adequately informed. Among other things, they asked for more raids and sting operations.

Major General Lincoln promised them 24/7 AGU deployment for the next month, but just two days later, at Algoa Court, another shooting left five people injured, including four-year-old Chloe van der Westhuizen, who lost the sight in her one eye.

Avril Andrews, far right, speaks to Anti-Gang Unit head Major General Andre Lincoln, Philippi SAPS station commander Colonel Adriaan Saulse and Vispol commander Lieutenant Colonel Colin Nathan. With her are Somaya Lawrence middle, and Lesley Wyngaard.

The community gathered at an open-air church on Sunday to pray for Chloe. Doctors will operate again on her this week to remove the bullet from her head.

At the memorandum hand-over, Avril Andrews from the Alcardo Andrew Foundation, said: “We were excited when we heard that the AGU was launched in Hanover Park. Things have probably changed, but nothing we can see. As mothers, we are gathered here today, standing up for our humanity. As mothers, it is our duty to keep our homes in order, and Hanover Park is our home, but we cannot do it without the help of the station commander, Colonel Saulse.”

Yolanda Mutiba told the officers her nephew, Shane Steyn, 26, had been shot and killed a month ago.

“You need to sort out your home first before you come into the community. Justice has not prevailed for us. There are 10-year-old crimes that have not been solved. Corruption must go. Restoration can only happen if justice prevails. We are asking you to do your part, and we will do ours. Parents are burying their children, and that is not how it should be,” Ms Mutiba said.

Constance Dirk, from the Blomvlei Neighbourhood Watch, said there were guns on the streets, and murders happened daily. She asked how suspects could be freed on bail a day after allegedly committing a serious crime.

Colonel Saulse, who is newly appointed as station commander, said he was ready to earn the community’s trust.

“What you are saying today can be achieved, but it won’t happen overnight. I must familiarise myself with the community and the circumstances. What you are asking is not unattainable. There are certain things we can work on over the short and long terms.”

Major General Lincoln promised the marchers that Philippi SAPS, under Colonel Saulse’s leadership, would “get a shake-up”.

“We will tackle whatever is wrong and won’t allow tons of dockets to lay here for 10 years. If the community knows anything, they must talk to us,” he said.

Call the AGU hotline at 0800 664 264 or Crime Stop at 0800 10111.