4-year gang war has Uitsig on edge

Cape Town – Abraham Niemandt will on Saturday bury the third of his grandchildren to be killed in gang gunfire. That it took police two hours to arrive at the murder scene deepens the trauma of outliving the 19-year-old, the elderly man says.

Ravensmead police on Friday were blasted by locals lamenting poor service, unanswered calls and corruption during a meeting hosted by Western Cape community safety MEC Dan Plato in response to two weeks of complaints as gang warfare holds the Uitsig community hostage.

Niemandt, 73, was one of the residents who listened intently as complaints were raised at the meeting with local police management.

Two weeks ago, his grandson, Shakeel, had been visiting a friend in Aster Avenue when a gunman entered the house and opened fire.

"He died there in the kitchen where he had been eating," Niemandt said. "I got a call and was at the scene before the police, who came two hours later. Two whole hours, we waited."

Police service in his community is "bad, very bad", Niemandt said.

Gunfight outside school

"No one has been arrested for his murder. I don't think anyone ever will be.

"Do you know what's worse? I can't even tell them if I should even know who it is. Because by the time I get back home from the police station, everyone will know that I went to piemp (report it). You can't trust anyone."

According to residents, gangs in the area have been engaging in deadly battles for the past four years, a war with which the Ravensmead police "clearly can't cope".

Pastor Adam Alexander, from the Uitsig Care Mission, said that on Tuesday he was forced to approach two groups of gangsters firing at each other outside Uitsig Primary School.

"I phoned the police when I heard the shots being fired. Between that call and when they arrived 45 minutes later, about 50 shots had been fired. In the meantime, I had walked to both of these gangs, asking them to stop what they were doing.

"The children at the school were lying on the ground in their classrooms, traumatised by what was going on outside. How can this be allowed to go on?"

'Our police don't give a damn about us'

Others at the meeting complained of emergency calls going unanswered, police vehicles being unavailable to respond to crime scenes, and anonymous tip-offs being leaked to criminals.

"There is no police visibility in Uitsig. Gangsters run the streets, brazenly waving their guns around because they know people are too scared to call the cops. And when they do, they rest assured that the blue uniform will show up hours later, if they pitch at all," one woman told News24.

"Ask yourself why this has been going on for four years. I can tell you – it's because our police don't give a damn about us."

Colonel Dyson Jacobs, representing the Ravensmead police, noted and responded to all the concerns raised, admitting that the station was under-resourced.

To combat this, he said officers from other areas were deployed to the area from Thursday to Monday morning, when most of the shooting incidents occur.

He said complaints against specific officials were viewed in a serious light, and all were investigated.

MEC to ask for intervention

"We act against officers who don't do their jobs. If criticism is received, it is investigated and addressed," he assured.

In the past 10 months, Jacobs said, 37 guns had been confiscated and 2 200 people were arrested for drugs, which "go hand in hand with gangsterism".

"We are not doing nothing," he said.

Plato, who arranged the meeting, said he would write a comprehensive letter to provincial police on Monday outlining the concerns raised and requesting intervention.

A workshop would also be convened for community leaders, police and officials from the department of correctional services to deal with concerns including the release on bail of repeat offenders and re-offending parolees who locals say are often behind the shootings.

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