Fear of being caught in gun crossfire between rival gangs when stepping out the front door, is the lived reality of thousands of residents on the Cape Flats every day. One of the areas that sees regular flare-ups of gun-violence is Bonteheuwel, where a pregnant woman was the latest victim last week.
Chairperson of the Bishop Lavis CPF precinct – which oversees Bonteheuwel and Netreg- Graham Lindhorst, said the murder of middle-aged Petula Williams was definitely gang-related. Initial reports indicated that the woman, who had been carrying twins, was the partner of an alleged gang leader and that her murder was in fact an assassination.
Williams was gunned down in her home in Terblanche Street at around 17:30 on Wednesday evening and later died in hospital. The escalation of gang violence that followed, suggests that her murder could indeed have been a hit. Police, of course, could not verify the claim.
Despite this, the loss of a young woman and her unborn children has struck the community, which is currently trapped in a turf war understood to be between the ‘Playboyz’ and ‘Hard Livings’. It comes shortly after Ocean View’s murder of 7-year-old Emaan Solomans stressed the need for urgent intervention around gangsterism in Cape Town.
Lindhorst said that the conflict is not limited to the area where the latest murder occurred.
“The situation is very tense, police are in the area but you can expect a flare up anytime, anywhere here in Bonteheuwel. It’s not only the one area- f and t blocks, there’s conflicts all over,” he said.
“The South African Defense Force was deployed on Friday, especially after the uprising with the community. There are plans to get them in regularly, especially this week, to really calm the situation down and put a lid on it because at the moment it is out of control.”
According to Lindhorst, the CPF saw the positive results of having visible policing in the area, after the festive season was quieter when compared to other years. He said that having police on the ground acts as a deterrent.
“We’ve checked with the South African Police Service (SAPS) and asked them what is their plan. Even in November already when they said they will be withdraw(ing) some of the forces in the area because the area was relatively good- we said to them that’s the biggest mistake they’re doing,” he said.
“We managed to bring down crime because of the amount of forces in the area, taking them away will just open up the gap again. We’ve requested them to bring back those forces.”
According to Lindhorst, a feasibility study on the viability of a police station the area is still being conducted and the CPF is awaiting feedback from ‘head office’.
He noted a disturbing trend of Cape Flats communities, that is prevalent in his own, where residents tend to run toward danger instead of trying to avoid it. Lindhorst urged people to stay away, noting that crowded streets contributes to hampering police efforts.
“One big problem we have is – and we saw it on Friday, people were saying that the police were in the area and they did nothing- what happens is that whenever there’s a shooting people then run towards the shooting. when SAPS comes they cannot differentiate between the perpetrators and the innocent.”
Lindhorst said the CPF is hoping to mobilize the community to put heightened pressure on government to provide greater resources to the area.
“I would also ask residents to help us go to government and ask them to bring more resources in. that’s the only way (we) will be safer. We’ve seen it working, even law enforcement was taken out of the area. they know what the solutions (are) but they don’t want to come to the party.”
Meanwhile, Clarence Petersen was charged with Williams murder in the Bishop Lavis Magistrate’s Court on Monday. National Prosecuting Authority regional spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila is quoted as confirming that the 42-year-old had not applied for bail and will remain in custody. The case was postponed to 24 April for further investigation.