Leonsdale residents in Elsies River say they are a community under siege, as the area battles a vicious flare up of gang violence over the past few days, in which gang members have taken up arms against police. Residents are living in fear as four local rival gangs fight for turf. Leonsdale community activist Alice Thomas says residents are bearing the brunt of the recent upsurge of violence as gang members begin to terrorize the vulnerable in the community.
“It’s a gang war on our doorsteps. We praised God that no civilians have died. It’s been chaotic,” she said.
Deputy Chairperson of the Elsies River Community Policing Forum, Imraahn Mukkadam said the situation is so volatile and on the brink of a “civil war”.
“What we have seen is a low intensity civil war. Police vans were shot at, stones were thrown at police and reports of gangsters running into people’s homes destroying things.”
Mukkadam described it as “a campaign of terror” against the community.
“We don’t call them gangsters anymore. They are armed militias,” he said.
A few weeks ago, gangsters broke down residents doors in Leonsdale and robbed them at gunpoint. While SAPS and metro police responded swiftly, residents feel more needs to be done to curb this violence. Thomas said the violence is traumatizing elderly residents.
“Elderly people have chronic illnesses and one lady even had a stroke. One tenant will soon move away as they cannot take it anymore. People feel safe…they can’t take it anymore.”
“We feel so relieved when we hear the police sirens in the background. But then we feel sorry for them because they too are under attack.”
The main rival gangs are the 26s, 28s and 27s who are fighting for territory. Thomas said the gun-wielding gangsters are youth who grew up on the streets of Leonsdale and are now caught up in the cycle of gangsterism.
“They’ve grown up in front of us yet they chosen to take this life. Once youre a gangster, you’re in it for life. These are our kids of our community…it’s sad to see the way they have turned out.”
Hopeless residents feel they are running out of options and “enough is enough”.
“We want to raise our voice by saying they need to stop this. We cannot go on like this!” stressed Thomas.
“If we are able to assist to make a better for future who have not taken this route and need a fair chance in life, we need them to stop.”
The Western Cape police did not respond at the time of publication. VOC