Call for army to combat gang violence

Gavin Walbrugh, chairperson of the Steenberg CPF, said that the army needed to be deployed to support police so that they could do their work.

Police Minister General Bheki Cele was set to meet the with the provincial board on Monday after the Mitchell’s Plain Community Police Forum (CPF) cluster demanded that the police service be placed under administration and called for the protection of CPF members and the broader community.

At a media briefing held at the Athlone police station on Wednesday June 26, the heads of the various CPFs within the Mitchell’s Plain police cluster, shared their anger about the ongoing gang war in their areas.

Chairperson of the cluster, Lucinda Evans, said if the minister did not reply to their demands they would arrange a peaceful protest at the provincial police office by Monday July 1.

“We are in pain as a cluster. Most of us start our day with gang violence and go to bed with it as well.

“We as the CPF need protection and so do our communities. We have issues with gang violence which we deem as small-scale terrorism. Our children cannot play or walk outside and cannot even enjoy school holiday programmes. We are not protected. This is complete carnage and war on the Cape Flats,” she said.

Ms Evans said it was time the army was deployed to the gang-ridden areas to stabilise them and to protect police officers so that they could protect their communities and the ambulance service as well.

She said the South African government and provincial police had no medium- to long-term plan to eradicate gang violence.

“We are demanding this for the children of the Western Cape. We don’t want to be lied to anymore. Nothing is being implemented. What is happening to our leadership?” she said.

Chairperson of the Athlone CPF, Aziza Kannemeyer, said gang violence in Bokmakierie had reached “ridiculous” levels and said the area had been a war zone for the past four to five months.

She added that gang activity in Bridgetown was also on the increase.

“We have shooting here on a weekly basis. Our police are so under-resourced because of the different units (being established), like the Anti-Gang Unit but these positions are not being replaced.”

Mitchell’s Plain CPF chairperson, Abie Isaacs, said the community was tired of imbizos and wanted action instead. He said the CPF was calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa, to hear their cry and step in by placing the police force under administration.

“The community doesn’t even trust us anymore because we can’t help them or protect them. Our children fear bullets. They can’t even enjoy their school holidays. This is a problem throughout the Cape Flats and a problem within provincial SAPS. They are duplicating units such as the Anti-Gang Unit and in the process using up all our resources, ” he said.

Chairperson of the Lentegeur CPF, Byron de Villiers, said the biggest issue in their community was an under-resourced police station. Most nights, he said, there were only three vehicles patrolling the area and only six police officers available to cover the entire precinct.

“The resources that are meant to uphold the law are non-existent. If gangsters can run freely in the road with their firearms and hold communities hostage while SAPS stand at a distance and come to write down the amount of dead bodies, then we agree that the defence force must be brought in and let’s give these communities some stability again,” he said.

Gavin Walbrugh, chairperson of the Steenberg CPF, said gang violence in Lavender Hill and Steenberg had reached an uncontrollable level and echoed the call for the army to be brought into the area.

He said there were four gangs in the area which had recruited children as young as 14 years old. “Young innocent children are being shot who have no affiliation to gangs.”

“The community feeds us constantly with information and when there’s no response we get labelled as working with the police and that is not the case – we are working for our communities. Our people don’t know where to turn anymore. Our appeal is for government to please do something to help us,” he said.

Chairperson of the Philippi CPF, Ebrahim Abrahams, said 50 to 60 gunshots were being fired in the area daily for the past three months and the community received no help from police except four arrests in the past three months.

“As people putting our lives at risk we are asking for protection. We need unity to confront these issues so that we can all share information and be on the same page. If we unite as CPFs and as the provincial police we will get rid of gangsterism,” he said.

At the time this edition went to print, it was not clear what transpired at the meeting scheduled with Mr Cele.