Living in a gang war zone

Seven people have been murdered in Manenberg and seven attempted murders have been reported since the beginning of September, some of which were gang-related, said police.

Last week, an 8-year-old girl became the latest statistic.

Thanwah Benjamin was playing outside in Joyce Court on Wednesday September 13 when she was caught in the crossfire between rival gangs, including the Dixie Boys, Americans, and Clever Kids, who shot at the Hard Livings, according to Manenberg Community Safety Forum chairperson, Roegshanda Pascoe.

The young girl was shot in the thigh and was rushed to Heideveld Emergency Centre where she received emergency medical treatment. She is currently in a stable condition at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, according to Dwayne Evan, communications officer at Red Cross.

Manenberg police spokesman, Captain Ian Bennett, said a case of attempted murder had been opened for investigation and no arrests had been made yet.

Ms Pascoe said Thanwah’s parents have refused to speak to the media.

Ms Pascoe urged people not to make assumptions as the family of people who have been injured by gang violence are afraid to speak out as their lives are threatened.

Captain Bennett said between Friday September 15 and Monday September 18, three men aged 16 to 44, had been fatally wounded and five men suffered serious gunshot wounds in separate gang-related shootings.

On Saturday September 16, a 44-year-old man had been shot and killed. It is alleged that the man had been sitting in a park in Cathedral Road, Manenberg, when he was shot in the back of his neck. He succumbed to his injuries.

On Sunday September 17, a 16-year-old boy was fatally wounded and a 23-year-old man sustained serious gunshot wounds. The two men had been sleeping in a car in Towerkop Road, Manenberg.

According to Captain Bennett, several shots had been fired into the vehicle while they were asleep. The 16-year-old died in a hail of bullets as he was hit in his upper body. The 23-year-old man was taken to Groote Schuur Hospital with gunshot wounds to his abdomen.

On the same day, a 20-year-old man was also fatally wounded. He and a friend were standing in Lataba Road when shots were fired at them. The
20-year-old was shot in the chest while his friend was shot in the foot. He was taken to Heideveld Emergency Centre for medical treatment.

Captain Bennett confirmed that cases of murder had been opened for investigation and no arrests had been made yet.

At a media briefing held by Deputy Minister of Police Bongani Mkongi on Thursday September 7, he said areas like Hanover Park, Manenberg, Bonteheuwel, Mitchell’s Plain, Atlantis, Bishop Lavis, Bellville South, among others, had become safe havens for hardened criminals and thugs who terrorised communities and children.

Manenberg was also one of the areas where the ShotSpotter project was launched last year. The project involves the use of real-time gunshot detection technology, which includes the exact location that the gun was fired from.

According to JP Smith, the City of Cape Town’s Mayco member for safety and security; and social services, compared with the initial commencement of the project, the shootings were now more contained in a specific area and not as widely spread as had previously been the case.

Mr Smith said when shooting was detected in the area, Metro police or South African Police Services were dispatched to the scene to investigate.

He also said there had been numerous arrests and information gathered on shooters since the implementation of the ShotSpotter project but could not provide the total number of arrests made.

Ms Pascoe said the ShotSpotter project could only detect when shooting took place but it could not prevent people from being killed.

“It is doing something, but actually nothing. All of our people need to unite against gang violence. If we don’t, things will get much worse, not better. The gang wars are taking over our streets and are taking several lives, our emergency services can’t even get into the area,” she said.

She said the community needed to steer the government in the right direction and not wait for the government to steer them. “People need to make a change for themselves. We need to strengthen ourselves and especially the mothers of drug addicts and gangsters who fear their children. Their mental state is affected so badly because of all the trauma and abuse that their children put them through. We need to take a holistic approach on this,” said Ms Pascoe.

Anyone with information regarding these shooting incidents cant contact Manenberg SAPS on 021 699 9400 or Crime Stop on 08600 10111.