Protest against violence

Protests have been taking place around the peninsula to address gang violence.

Ongoing gang violence has left communities scared, angry and frustrated.

Last week a group of aggrieved Pelican Park residents took to the streets in a peaceful placard protest to tell gangsters that they will not stand for the lawlessness any longer.

New Horizons resident and community worker, Gail Johnstone, said as the country struggles with the Covid-19 pandemic, they also have to deal with ongoing shootings and innocent people being attacked, shot, wounded and killed by gangsters who run the street and make their lives unbearable.

Daily shootings have been taking place in Parkwood, Pelican Park, Cafda, Hillview, Lotus River, Lavender Hill and other communities, the latest (at the time of going to print) in Pelican Park where two men were shot and killed behind the Shoprite centre on Friday June 5.

Another man was wounded when he was shot in the arm.

Ms Johnstone said their protest in Woodswallow Road on Thursday June 4 was started because of gangsters who attacked a family.

“The gangsters have been running the streets, despite lockdown. The drug dealing has been going on daily so we decided as a community we will stand where they sell the drugs and show them that we are taking a stand because the whole of Pelican Park is being overrun by gangsters. The neighbourhood watches are also on lockdown but we walk with people to the taxi stop because people are being robbed early in the mornings on their way to work,” said Ms Johnstone.

Resident Elizabeth Heynes said she came out to protest despite the threat of Covid-19 because she is tired of gangsters taking control of the streets.

“These gangsters are arrested but then they come right back out to cause trouble again. The system is failing the community,” she said.

Community worker and advocate for gang reform, Brandon Eckhardt, who started the Life Changers Foundation in Ottery 15 years ago, said reports of shootings have been coming in every day.

“The issue of police corruption needs to be addressed because I sit in gang mediations and hear gangsters talking about how they have bought police officers and how they brag about which gangs have more stations under their pay.

“I honestly feel that needs to change. In Ottery there are dealers dealing in drugs in broad daylight and police drive by and don’t do anything about it. Residents know who the gangsters are but they don’t want to speak up because they are afraid they’ll be killed because the officers are on the gangsters’ payroll. I’m not saying all the officers are corrupt but many of them are,” said Mr Eckardt.

Grassy Park Community Police Forum (CPF) spokesperson, Philip Bam, said the forum is saddened about the shootings all over the peninsula.

“Children’s lives do matter. Young people’s lives do matter. In the early hours of Thursday June 4 a 23-year old was shot and killed at the Buck Road terminus. On Tuesday another youngster was shot and killed in our area. This is a sad state of affairs,” he said.

“Gangsters are roaming with guns in our streets. Somewhere ‘something is rotten in the State of Denmark’ as the saying goes. Why can’t we eliminate guns and drugs in our area? Police and army and Metro and law enforcement acted against cigarette traders and boozers during the lockdown confiscating lots of the products. Why is it so difficult to deal with drugs and gangsterism effectively in the
Western Cape but more especially in Grassy Park, Lotus River, Parkwood Estate, etc? These gangsters have now taken to feeding the community, enslaving them even further. The CPF should look at the plan to eradicate this scourge from our community.” said Mr Bam.

Albert Fritz, MEC for Community Safety, said there has been a significant number of gang-related incidents in communities as the country moved from lockdown level 4 to level 3.

“I previously condemned this spate of violence and called on police to ensure the speedy arrest of perpetrators.

“Gangs are taking advantage of the reduced alert level to settle scores and cause havoc in communities. We will not allow this to happen. Despite our response to Covid-19, the Western Cape Government has not abrogated its commitment to making communities safe,” he said.

Mr Fritz added that the Western Cape Safety Plan remains committed to halving the murder rate over the next 10 years.

“As such, my department will continue to work with police, the Law Enforcement Advancement Programme (LEAP), neighbourhood watches and all other stakeholders to put a stop to the harm caused by gangs,” said Mr Fritz.

Grassy Park police’s Lieutenant Colonel Ettiene Van Ede spoke to Southern Mail because station commander Dawood Laing was on leave.

He said although police are not able to give statistics, several arrests have been made in most of the recent gang-related shootings in the precinct.

“Some of the murders have been solved and there were arrests made but we are still investigating the shooting that happened in
Pelican Park on Friday June 5. There have been no arrests in that case but we do have information and we’re following up on it,” he said.

Lieutenant Colonel Van Ede added that there has been a flare-up in gang violence but it is not an all out gang war.

“There’s not a full on gang war yet. There have been sporadic shootings and there is a lot of tension between different gangs. We are working hard to make arrests and follow up on all information we receive,” he said.