In a spate of violent gang activity over the past week, residents of Elsies River were once again forced to flee for the lives, as one of their own was fatally gunned down. While the area has a functioning police station, community members are unsatisfied with the inadequate level of response of law enforcement officials.
Speaking to VOC, deputy chairperson for the Elsies River Community Police Forum (CPF) Imraan Mukkadam explained that while residence vow to eradicate crime within the area, the resent outbreak of gang violence has left residents desperate to find a solution.
“It’s as if its business as usual; these guys are roaming the streets armed to the teeth. We are not seeing a kind of visibility that is a deterrent for them – [since] this is an urban warfare situation.”
Describing the gangs as “armed militia”, Mukkadam said gang leaders recruit young children and train them to “shoot to kill”.
“Our community cannot tolerate this any longer, from early in the morning until late at night you have gun-fire and I don’t know when last I heard the sound of a helicopter in the area. So, there is definitely an inadequate response on the part of the police and law enforcement agency,” Mukkadam said.
He said that the gang violence, which he describes as “very organised,” is between the Terribles, Rebels, and certain members of the 28’s.
While the CPF has in the past been able to communicate with gang leaders, Mukkadam says that presently many old gang leaders have been replaced or gone into hiding.
Mukkadam further noted that gang violence is not restricted to the Elsies River area, but that it extends to many parts of the Cape Flats, where even the lives of police officials are threatened by gang activity.
“When you are driving through areas, there are always pockets of men standing on corners, not as spectators but as if they are waiting for war – standing and protecting their checkpoints.”
Meanwhile, member of the Mayoral Committee for Safety and Security of the City of Cape Town, Alderman JP Smith, said there appears to be inadequate policing across the City.
He said that the lack of police presence has called the Social Justice Coalition into action, since it has now taken legal action against government.
“There will now be pressure on national government to bring up the deployment levels, so that areas like Elsies River is not left with not policing presence,” Smith said.
While Metro Police accounts for 2. 9 per cent of police presence, Smith noted that SAPS only reports to national government and, therefore, requires the intervention of national government to increase its presence on the Cape Flats.
He added that though the Gang and Drug Task Team has worked to improve the situation, it requires the support of the SAPS.
“Since the beginning of the year, we have done 55 arrests in Elsies…but there is only so much 600 Metro Police members can do in the face of 2000 SAPS members, which your tax is paying for.”
He confirmed that many SAPS members have lost their lives whilst in the line of duty in gang ridden areas in the city.
“There is just nothing that can explain how it is to speak to the family of a slain officer, there is nothing you can say to ease the pain.”
In light of the growing number of deaths resulting from gang activity, Smith said that the increased deaths are as a direct consequence of the low conviction rate of gang members.
With 86 murders, 51 arrests and zero convictions in Hanover Park, Smith says that government is not doing enough to prosecute gang members.
“The conviction rate for gang crime sits at [approximately] three per cent, which means that the gangsters have long and prosperous careers but are not being prosecuted.”
He said that new legislation, which is scheduled to be issued in, will strip Metro Police of all crime prevention powers. The mandate of Metro Police will be restricted to traffic and by-laws.
He further noted that metro police is cracking down on gang and criminal activity taking place in rental properties and have established a task team in conjunction with SAPS that is reporting on and monitoring any suspicious activity in these properties.
Smith said that the City is establishing a housing unit that will focus soul on monitoring the safety of tenants in the social housing rental units.
“Court conviction takes a long time – on average about 18 months. These gangsters bring good lawyers to the party, so the City has to stand in court and beg for an eviction order,” Smith concluded.