'Gangsters, here we come!' - police minister launches task team in Westbury

"Gangsters, here we are, here we come!"

This was the stern warning from Police Minister Bheki Cele to criminals in Westbury, Johannesburg, on Thursday morning.

Cele was speaking at the launch of a Tactical Response Team (TRT) at the Westbury Sports Centre, following a spate of gang-related killings.

READ: Cele promises to send in 'amaberethe' to deal with drug lords in Westbury

Residents took to the streets this past week, sparking violent protests which saw police firing rubber bullets at protesters and arresting eight people for public violence.

This followed the death of Heather Peterson, who was shot dead in crossfire while walking her son home from school last week. She died with his report card in her hand.

On Tuesday, Cele said the TRT - or amaberethe, as they are also known - would be deployed in the area.

"We will find out who these criminals are. No oxygen will be wasted on criminals. We will squeeze them out of this community!" Cele told residents.

WATCH: Police appear to shoot into Westbury home during protest

Cele was riled up, starting his address with an enthusiastic: "Good morning, officers!" He repeated his greeting several times until he was satisfied with the response from police members.

"We promised you a special task team. Just look around and look at them," he said, pointing to task team members dressed in full combat gear and armed with automatic assault rifles.

"I can assure [criminals], they won't win."

Cele said there would henceforth be visible policing in the area, including police dog units.

"And we don't give them rubber bullets - we give them the real stuff!" Cele said to loud applause.

Cele said there had been 36 gang-related deaths in the past financial year and 33 in the current financial year.

"We are sick and tired. They [gangsters] should be the people dying here."

The minister added: "Go sleep peacefully. They [the TRT] will look after you."

'Drug lords, you'll have sleepless nights from now on'

Members of the SAPS Tactical Response Team are see
Members of the SAPS Tactical Response Team are seen in Westbury. (Felix Dlangamandla, Gallo Images, Netwerk24)

Cele urged residents to work with the TRT. He also said an inter-ministerial task team would continue to assess the community's needs in terms of housing and employment.

"We have to deal with it," he said.

Cele said the justice ministry would create a proper witness protection programme to ensure criminals could be imprisoned "for a long, long time".

"Drug lords, you'll have sleepless nights from now on."

He said the TRT would stay as long as the community needed them.

"I want them to take over the streets!" Cele shouted.

Community members responded: "Run!"

"No!" Cele replied. "They shouldn't run, they should be caught…"

Cele's address was followed by a performance of the SA Police Service's marching band. Combat vehicles were also on display.

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