Seat of war

2016-04-19 06:00
Crime scenes have been a common sight for residents in the area for the past month. The recent flare-up in gang violence has resulted in an unconfirmed amount of deaths in the area.  PHOTO: Chevon Booysen

Crime scenes have been a common sight for residents in the area for the past month. The recent flare-up in gang violence has resulted in an unconfirmed amount of deaths in the area. PHOTO: Chevon Booysen

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Gang violence in Manenberg has hit boiling point after 17 people have lost their lives in the ongoing gang wars.

A total of 15 firearms have been confiscated in the past three weeks and 17 attempted murders have been reported, confirms Manenberg police spokesperson Lieutenant Ian Bennett.

He also adds police and law enforcement agencies have saturated the area.

“Additional police officers, including Law Enforcement officers, have saturated the hotspot areas by doing stops and searches and executing search warrants in the identified hotspots,” Bennett explains.

He says on Tuesday (12 April) at 23:30 police members were patrolling the area around Beatrix Court when they noticed two suspicious males walking to the court.

“(Police) managed to corner them and conducted a search. They searched the two boys aged 15 and 18 years old and found a 9mm pistol with three live rounds.”

On the same day, at 10:30, Bennett says officers of the Law Enforcement Stabilisation Unit received information regarding a firearm at an address in Stormsriver Road. “The officers found the five men in the house. They searched the premises and found a pistol, two magazines and 14 rounds of ammunition. They also confiscated R19 700 in cash.”

The five men, aged between 21 and 33, were arrested and will be appearing in court for the possession of unlicensed firearm and ammunition soon.

Provincial police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel André Traut confirms the current warfare started at the end of March but did not confirm the amount of fatalities since the flare-up. “The figures provided cannot be confirmed due to the moratorium on the release of crime statistics.”

Traut says they are grateful for the community reporting crimes in the area. “The police get information from the community on a regular basis, which is much appreciated. In fact, we would like to encourage the public to keep assisting the police with information in this way. Unfortunately there are incidents when police officers are attacked by community officers when they are doing their job.”

Traut confirms during the period Thursday 31 March to Tuesday 12 April, 33 arrests were made in the Manenberg area during police operations and 13 firearms with ammunition, of which five were automatic rifles, were confiscated. In further efforts to curb crime and focus on the gang war flare-up in the area, executive mayor Patricia de Lille says the City of Cape Town’s stabilisation unit was deployed to the area.

“I have called the Western Cape police commissioner Major General Khombinkosi Jula to discuss the gang war taking place. We are very concerned about the high level of violence threatening the lives of so many residents. Even though it is the police’s primary mandate to fight crime, the City will be making all possible resources available to assist their operations in Manenberg.”

Since last weekend, the City’s gang and drug task team has been conducting raids and sting operations,” De Lille says.
The gang and drug task team and Stabilisation Unit confiscated three illegal firearms in Manenberg. The unit also arrested five suspects for the possession of drugs.
De Lille explains the stabilisation unit was launched in Manenberg last year for four months during July and November, and they were then deployed to Ottery, Lavender Hill and other hotspots.

“Fifty-eight officers of the Stabilisation Unit have been redeployed to Manenberg and will be assisting the Gang and Drug Task Team with disruptive policing as well as integrated policing operations. Jula has confirmed that the police will also deploy 36 officers. We will be coordinating our efforts,” she says.

Law Enforcement confiscated four more guns last week – three of which were found in Manenberg. 
On Thursday 7 April, the Gang and Drug Task Team arrested a 32-year-old suspect with a .38 special revolver and four rounds of ammunition in Hanover Park. The same team later arrested a 26-year-old suspect for possession of an illegal firearm and ammunition in Manenberg. Five other suspects were arrested in Manenberg for possession of narcotics.
That same day, the Law Enforcement Stabilisation Unit confiscated two firearms in Manenberg.
Mayco member for safety and security, JP Smith, says the firearms will be sent away for ballistic tests.

“There are far too many illegal firearms on our streets. While I commend our officers for their sterling work, I worry that the four firearms taken off the streets are simply being replaced by others brought into circulation,” Smith says.

He says “cracking the weapons supply chain should be a critical part of policing efforts to quell gang violence”. “Once we roll out Shot Spotter in Manenberg and Hanover Park, we will see a further increase in the number of firearms confiscated.”

Residents from Manenberg say they are too scared to send their children to school during the gang violence.

Spokesperson for the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) Jessica Shelver says they have not had any reports where shootings have taken place on school premises in Manenberg. “The principal of Manenberg Secondary reported to our Safe Schools division that staff and learners found a body lying outside the school grounds when they arrived about 07:20 on Monday morning. The learners did not witness the shooting. The principal believed that the incident was gang related.”
Shelver says the school did not require additional support, as after the removal of the body the area around the school was quiet.

“Teaching and learning continued as normal. The principal will advise Safe Schools on whether they need additional support. Safe Schools and the WCED are working closely with schools and other partners to address school security and broader social issues.

“We have to adopt a ‘whole of society’ approach to deal with these issues,” Shelver explains.
Shelver says the department has invested heavily in new “bullet reflective” fencing at Manenberg schools, among other security measures. “The fences, made of tempered steel, are difficult to cut and difficult to climb because of the ‘close mesh’ design. According to our information, the fences will not stop a bullet, but will deflect one, depending on the calibre of the bullet,” Shelver says. 

The WCED installed the fences following gang violence in Manenberg last year. The fencing has been installed at 12 of Manenberg’s 14 schools. The other two schools already have palisade fencing, Shelver says.

“Safe Schools works closely with the police and the Metropolitan Police, who provide security in the streets, when learners are moving through the area before and after school.”
Western Cape Minister of Education Debbie Schäfer is “extremely concerned regarding the flare-up of gang violence around our schools in Bonteheuwel, Modderdam and Manenberg”.
“When there are reports of violence in a certain area, schools implement their safety plan. In terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, every school must have a safety plan that meets local requirements, and a committee responsible for implementing the plan.”
Schäfer says in recent events, schools in Manenberg, Modderdam and Bonteheuwel have followed their safety plans, and alerted the authorities to the imminent threat outside the school gates.

“In the past, a strong police presence has helped to minimise the number of incidents reported. However, how can our police increase visibility when they are highly under-resourced?” questions Schäfer.

She says the WCED is doing all it can to protect pupils while on the school property.
“Our schools, learners and educators need all our support in these very tough and challenging times,” she says.

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