By Tauhierah Salie
The community of Ocean View is on tenterhooks following a night of violence in retaliation to the senseless murder of seven-year-old girl Emaan Solomans. Police and city law enforcement officers were patrolling the area Thursday after mayhem broke out the night before, when angry locals set alight four houses, alleged to be drug dens. It comes as police are investigating two cases of murder following a shooting incident between rival gangs on Tuesday evening, which claimed the life of little girl as well as an unidentified man, aged 31.
Western Cape police spokesperson Brigadier Novela Potelwa confirmed that two cases of murder are being investigated and no arrests were made at the time of publishing. However, sources had reported that at least two people believed to be involved in the shooting handed themselves over to police.
On Wednesday evening, a thikr was organized by the Manenberg Centre for Islamic Information and Education in honour of little Emaan. Hundreds of people poured into the streets outside of her home and there was an emotionally charged atmosphere, as the spiritually soothing thikr brought calm to residents. After it was completed however, anger and grief once again boiled over as a small group broke away and took to the streets to set the houses of alleged gang leaders alight. Several eye-witnesses claim this group is the Pagad G-Force, however this could not be independently verified.
The City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Service’s spokesperson Jermaine Carelse said Kommetjie Road services and Fish Hoek fire crews were dispatched to the first fire in Apollo Way at 1.25am. Carelse said, however, that the SAPS notified them to avoid responding to all the fires.
“They (Kommetjie Road services and Fish Hoek fire crews) were escorted to the incident and found a double storey dwelling well alight. The fire was extinguished at 03:31. Whilst they were there reports of a second dwelling fire in Scorpio Road was reported. Simonstown’s crew responded under police escort as well. This dwelling was also totally destroyed by the fire. Further reports of dwelling fires in Alpha Street was reported, but the Fire Service was informed by SAPS not to enter as the area was extremely volatile,” explained Carelse.
According to a source, Muslim-owned shops were attacked and threats were made to burn the local masjid down. According to a man with close links to the masjid, who did not want to be named for fear of being victimized, the threat came from a group led by two of the areas drug-dealers and owners of the destroyed houses.
One resident told VOC News that community members, religious leaders and the Pagad G-Force defended the masjid and the group dispersed. Violent scenes are however believed to have played out. Another source said that a man affiliated to a gang was hospitalized after being beaten and stabbed in the face.
Chairperson of the Ocean View CPF Kathy Cronje said they initially thought a group of people who travelled from Manenberg were there to pay respects, but “it turned into houses being burnt down.” Cronje said it was clear that the community had had enough.
“Emaans’ family is absolutely broken. The Ocean View community has had enough…what will it take? In November to December the shootings got so bad that we eventually had to write to the provincial commissioner to request Anti-Gang Unit. We are an AGU station so why on earth don’t we have AGU in our area?” she questioned.
The Manenberg Centre for Islamic Information and Education later issued a statement condemning the acts of ‘vigilantism’ emphasizing that the cause strives to promote peace and justice.
Meanwhile, the People against gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD) equally condemned the violence and distanced themselves from the group. PAGAD national co-ordinator Haroon Orrie, said that the “G-Force” is a break-away group that misuses the name of their movement.
“They are expelled members and are no longer part of PAGAD but are still trying ton usurp the PAGAD name. PAGAD is not responsible for any destruction or havoc that was caused in Ocean View, or in any area for that matter. We would give information if we are present in the communities. These are people acting under the PAGAD name, they have no authority to speak on behalf of PAGAD,” he said.
Orrie noted that the movement will host a meeting with Ocean View residents on Thursday evening.
“We urge the community to come out in support, not because Ocean View has a problem but because we have a moral responsibility to safeguard our children and humanity at large. We asking people to support us and the community in their fight against gangsterism and drugs, In Shaa Allah.”
Police maintained a heavy police presence in the area throughout the morning and into the afternoon.
Moments after the shooting on Tuesday, a crowd had gathered outside the little girls home in Libra Way, where she had been playing with neighbours in the yard. The close-knit community was frustrated at the thoughtless murder of another child, less than a week after eight-year-old Tazne Van Wyk’s body was found in a storm drain in Worcester.
Cape Town residents gathered in their hundreds to attend Tazne’s memorial service in Elsies River on Sunday past, following violent protests that demanded action to deal with rising child murders.
The desperate frustration of residents was also evident during the violent demonstration outside the Goodwood Magistrate court on Friday, where the murder and kidnapping case of Mohyiden Pangaker was postponed. The protest later moved to Parow where the houses of alleged drug dealers and a brothel was torched, a shop looted and a car tipped.
The 54-year-old arrest renewed calls for a review of the country’s parole system and harsher punishment for perpetrators of crime against women and children. Her story carried weight for hundreds of mothers and families on the Cape Flats, who have lost their children to rampant gang violence.
The grief of losing another innocent life lingered in the air on Tuesday and Ocean View residents turned on police who had responded to the scene, resulting in the deployment of Public Order Police and Anti-Gang Unit members. Potelwa said that only “after the situation had calmed down, police discovered that the man had also been shot dead in the gang crossfire.”
The City’s Safety and Security Directorate spokesperson Jean-Pierre Smith welcomed the Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP), which saw the training of several hundred officers. To support the efforts of the police monitoring the area, LEAP officials were deployed to Ocean View to assist in monitoring the area on Thursday.
“Two months ago we would not have had the spare resources to redeploy staff rapidly in response to a crisis like this, especially when it is concurrent with other hotspot areas like Bonteheuwel, but thanks to LEAP, we are now able to be more responsive to crises around the city. Their responsibilities will include patrols, vehicle control points, tracing wanted suspects, cordon off and search operations and protest-related actions,” said Smith.
Smith further appealed to residents not to resort to mob justice.
“The City understands that residents are frustrated and that the violent backlash we’ve witnessed in the last 12-hours is driven by the anger around yet another senseless killing of an innocent child.”
“However, we appeal to residents to not take the law into their own hands and to work with enforcement agencies instead to identify and arrest the criminals who are putting lives at risk in their community,” urged Smith.
Meanwhile, Bonteheuwel police are investigating a murder case after the pregnant woman who was shot in the area on Wednesday afternoon, succumbed to her injuries in hospital. According to reports, the shooting of the woman, who was carrying twins, was an assassinated as she was the partner of an alleged gang leader.
Ward Councilor Angus McKenzie said that it is unfortunate that SAPS has not been able to identify the ‘clear trend’ of ongoing conflict between two rival gangs in the area. He urged police to increase their efforts to prosecute known gangsters or risk facing an increase in mob justice.
“It is horribly upsetting and disappointing that we cannot manage to police a basic gang war between just two gangs in one small part (of Cape Town). Ongoing murders and gender-based violence is going to start spilling over into more and more vigilante attacks if police do not start taking control.”
“There’s also a responsibility on community members that know who these people are to come out with the information. With only a 3% conviction rate, SAPS has a huge task to ensure they are arresting gangsters, that courts are prosecuting (them) and they are not given parole to terrorize communities again,” said McKenzie.
Outside of Parliament, members of the Cape Coloured Congress, previously known as Gatvol Capetonian, chained themselves to the building’s gates, threatening a hunger strike to draw attention to the gang crisis.
A teary-eyed spokesperson Fadiel Adams posted a video to social media where he questioned President Cyril Ramaphosa’s inaction in addressing gangsterism and its subsequent social ills.
“My daughter is safe at home, but today has proven that we aren’t really safe anywhere. I’m here, outside parliament, cold, will soon be tired and hungry because tomorrow will surely bring another avoidable death, another parent will break down, and the president may act as if he cares. He doesn’t. He’s apologized to Tazne’s family, he might as well apologize to the next in advance, Ramaphosa must know that what we do is in protest to his ineptitude. He must know that our hunger strike ends in him taking drastic action, or him explaining to the world why a parent starved to death in protest of presidential incompetence,” he wrote on his Facebook page.