This story is part of a three-part “Gang Wars” series, which this week focuses on Hanover Park.
Since the start of the year, 45 people have been murdered in Hanover Park in the Western Cape and 12 people lost their lives to violence in June, the bloodiest month in the gang-ravaged area this year.
Escalated gang violence erupted in the Cape Flats suburb in April. Eight people were killed that month, eight in May and 12 in June.
According to sources, the recent escalation in violence is due to a turf war between the Americans and the Ghetto Kids, further fuelled by retaliation killings.
They are two of the biggest and most dangerous gangs in Hanover Park.
Touted as an enabler to a much bigger strategy in combating gun and gang violence, the City of Cape Town launched the multi-million rand Shot Spotter gunfire detection technology pilot project in Hanover Park five years ago.
In three months, the data showed that 1 106 shots had been fired in 344 recorded incidents.
On 21 of those days, only a single gunshot was recorded. There were seven days where no gunshots were recorded.
The highest number of gunshots fired in a single incident was 25, the data showed. Last July, a staggering 883 gunshots were fired, that equates to around 28 a day.
Most of the shootings recorded occurred between 20:00 and 05:00 and incidents peaked between 23:00 and 03:00, the numbers indicated.
According to Shot Spotter data for 2018, 3 787 bullets were fired in Hanover Park in 1 222 separate incidents.
In the first three months of this year, 1 208 shots were fired in 389 incidents.
According to the provincial Department of Community Safety, analysis of the police’s crime statistics for the last financial year showed that 83% – or 808 – of gang-related murders in the country were recorded in the Western Cape.
In the province’s 26 gang hot-spot precincts, 45% of the 3 729 murders, 56% of the attempted murders and 57% of the gun-related offences were recorded.
The role of illegal firearms
According to advocacy group Gun Free SA, gang violence has become endemic in Cape Town, largely as a result of illegal firearms being distributed to the Cape Flats.
In 2019, nearly 2 000 people have died from gun violence in the last financial year. The public reported the loss or theft of 24 guns every day.
To avoid similar cases and to stop gun violence from escalating even further, the NGO on Global Gun Destruction Day – July 9 – urged police to destroy seized and surrendered firearms.
“It is globally recognised that destroying excess, unwanted and recovered firearms, ammunition and firearm parts is the only way to guarantee that these are not leaked into the illegal pool of weapons,” Gun Free SA’s director Adèle Kirsten said.
Guns have replaced knives as the leading cause of murder in South Africa, the organisation said. Currently, 23 people are shot and killed every day. A marked increase from the 18 a day in 2009.
Where to next for the Anti-Gang Unit?
President Cyril Ramaphosa launched the Anti-Gang Unit in Hanover Park last year.
He said the national anti-gang strategy sought to address gangsterism in a holistic manner with a focus on “street level outreach, community development, conflict mediation and changing community norms in order to reduce violence and criminality”.
In June, Minister of Police Bheki Cele said the unit did not have enough officers and the police were looking at other ways to curb crime in the province.
He eventually escalated it to his national office, amid reported infighting, budgeting and capacity constraints, and a highly publicised botched operation in Philippi last month that saw five Anti-Gang Unit members shot and injured.
Following the incident, the unit’s head, General André Lincoln, in a scathing letter, requested that three officers be removed from the unit due to a “trust breakdown”.
Western Cape police commissioner Lieutenant General Khombinkosi Jula has now also been offered a move back to KwaZulu-Natal amid reports of internal conflict in the provincial offices.
Last week, community activist Colin Arendse claimed the Anti-Gang Unit had not been allocated a sufficient budget.
He added it had to compete with a second unit, the major offences reaction team (MORT), saying police stations and specialised units were denuded when officers were redeployed to it. Cele is probing the claims.
This week, Western Cape Premier Alan Winde confirmed that more than 2 300 people have been murdered in the province between November 2018, when the Anti-Gang Unit was launched, and May this year.