From the news desk

Gang violence claims more lives on Cape Flats

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Police have confirmed that the recent fatal shooting in Lavender Hill is in fact gang related. Two men were killed and two other people hurt late Tuesday afternoon. Steenberg Police Station Commander, Jan Alexander says while the investigation into the incident continues, law enforcement will be working with residents to form a relationship which Alexander hopes will lead to the arrests of shooters. The two deceased were 19 and 21 years of age. Commander Alexander says an increase in violent gang activity has been observed in recent days.

“Where shooting incidents happen, it usually comes from gang related issues in the community of Lavender Hill,” Alexander explained.

In his six months as station commander, Alexander has pleaded the community to come forward and join hands with police to take a strong hand against crime in the area.

“People’s lives are currently at stake. We need to support each other. I can understand that the community feels threatened by local gangs but if we work together, we can reach positive results in arresting those perpetrators. We cannot do it on our own,” Alexander continued.

Elsewhere on the Cape Flats, after a brief lull in violence, it seems that gang wars are again starting to pick up in Manenberg. Residents say in the last two weeks gang violence has increased in the area. Since the beginning of 2016 roughly four innocent people have lost their lives after getting caught in crossfire. According to community worker, Waheed Sookool, last year was a successful year after a peace agreement was sought however, things have since turned for the worse.

From his years of experience in the community as a resident and a worker for the people, Sookool told of the many challenges residents are plagued with but adds that the current situation is a result of social issues rather than crime.

Sookool told VOC News that five large gangs dominating Manenberg often fight over petty tiffs that can be avoided through mediation. However, these negotiations have been met with some negative responses from certain residents who feel it legitimises gang behaviour.

“It took more than a year to get the gangs to agree to a truce process as a means to quell the violence. Gangs have been around since Manenberg was established, around more than forty years now,” Sookool explained.

Two of the four individuals caught in the recent fatal gang shootings were mothers. Sookool says the upsurge in violent behaviour, mostly from minors, stems from a lack of service delivery to address socio-economic challenges plaguing residents.

“Organised crime is a job for police, which they are not doing very well. Why are police not able to clamp down on illegal guns in Manenberg. Most of the guns are smuggled through corrupt SAPS officials. Twenty to thirty years ago residents from Manenberg will tell you we used to watch gangs fight on the soccer field. They would physically fight each other and never open fire in the streets. There was never this level of violence on the streets back then. This is a growing scourge,” Sookool continued.

Furthermore, Sookool said the gang lifestyle has become popular amongst the younger generation, even as young as four years old.

“The number of young people joining gangs is astounding. There are petty gangs at both primary and high schools. There are kids as young as four playing dice in the streets already. We gang violence evolving from throwing stones at each other at primary school to firing a weapon later on in life,” Sookool added.

The gang problem in the community cannot be addressed from a crime perspective. Sookool says his experience has shown that more needs to be done at a foundation phase level to nurture the minds of young people in order to stop the vicious cycle of accepting gang mentality. VOC (Ra’eesah Isaacs)

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