The community of Bokmakierie is on edge following the murders of two high profile gang members recently. There are fears of a gang war after the execution style murder of an alleged leader of the Hard Livings gang which operates in Bokmakierie. 46 year old Ibrahim ‘Hiemma’ Ishmail was gunned down by four suspects, while sitting in his car at a petrol station in Kenilworth on Saturday night. The four suspects, alleged to be members of the Vikings gang, were arrested by police during a high-speed car chase.
Athlone Community Policing Forum (CPF) chairperson, Aziza Kannemeyer said while Bokmakierie is quiet at present, there remains tension within the community.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty as to what will happen next. Everyone is looking out apprehensively, given the fact that within a space of three or three and a half weeks, we’ve seen five young men, in their prime, gunned down and brutally killed, coming from this area,” said Kannemeyer.
“Four of them were killed in this area and the fifth killed in Kenilworth. It leaves a lot of questions and fear.”
“The person [shot in the Kenilworth incident] is from Bokmakierie. He was known as a person who was seeming to be in charge or [at the very least] linked to a gang. The threat on his life is not the first time. I think that in the last four or five months he’s been shot up thrice. The third time was fatal.”
Ishmail’s death is the latest in a series of gang-related hits, including that of 42-year-old Shafiek Meyer, a high-ranking member of the Vikings gang, murdered outside a mosque in Hazendal last month. Sources say Ishmail’s murder is a suspected retaliation for the death of Meyer as the Hard Livings and the Vikings are in a fight over drug turf.
Kannemeyer said there’s no clear end to the violence in sight.
“The ultimate question is, ‘Where is this going to end? What are we going to get out of this?’,” she said.
“The recruitment process [into gangs] seems to be very easy for these people involved in criminal activities…more and more people are joining up with these groupings and the recruits are becoming younger. We are talking 15, 16, 17 [years of age] and most of these youth are coming from very poor families. They feel that they have found a place of belonging.”
“All over the Cape Flats, not just in Bokmakierie, your shooters are mostly those who are not even 18 years old yet.”
The Athlone CPF feels that the repetitive cycle of violence and killing is characteristic of the type of industry these groups and individuals become involved in. Accordingly, their concern is both on preventative measures in the form of policing and crime prevention, as well as the source of the weapons used in these killings.
“In this industry of drugs, guns and gangs, it’s to be expected that there’s always going to be a bullet waiting for you and a price on your head,” said Kannemeyer.
“Our role as a CPF was to speak to the South African Police Service (SAPS) about a strategy for areas like Bokmakierie and similarly for an area called the Vlei. What we’ve seen is an improvement from SAPS in terms of increased patrols and quicker response times. We’ve seen the Anti-Gang Unit often since the shooting has increased, we’ve had support from the cluster, confiscation of firearms and increased patrols over weekends.”
The problem is that it’s not sustainable. It always seems to be a reaction. Our deep-rooted concern is even though there are so many confiscations of firearms, there always seems to be an endless supply and no one seems to know where its coming from.”
Kannemeyer says that the effects of the violence are visible, particularly where children are concerned.
“Most people who are employed continue to go to work. They travel by train or other public transport, but obviously they are very alert and aware when they take to the streets for work. Fortunately, we haven’t seen a situation where people have been prevented from going to work – but there are situations where children transported to different schools refuse to go into the area because of the shooting. That disrupts their lives.”
Our children are the most traumatised. They run when these guys are shooting. They just run. Scared and blindly. Some fall flat to the ground. We’ve heard of a case where children needed counselling. Its very traumatic and impactful.”
“If you haven’t witnessed it [shootings], it’s almost like they [people that get told of the stories] think we are exaggerating or that what we say is coming from a movie. But these are the realities. Lives are too cheap and easily lost,” said Kannemeyer.