'It's a genocide' - bullets and bloodshed rocks Mitchells Plain

2019-03-01 07:24

Stop and drop - this is the lesson a Mitchells Plain father says he has taught his children for when gunshots start ringing out.

The loud bangs have become a familiar sound in the suburb of Lentegeur, he explains.

"It's quiet today. But it can change in a few minutes," the man insists, clicking his fingers.

"Look at the people who live here. They walk faster so that they can get home quicker. Because one minute all is well in the streets; the next, you see a body on the pavement."

READ: It's 'war' on the Cape Flats as gang-related death toll mounts

Since February 1, 25 people have been killed in gang-related murders in Mitchells Plain alone, Lentegeur Community Policing Forum chairperson Byron de Villiers told News24.

Body count

The suspected turf war - which has rocked neighbourhoods such as Lentegeur, Woodlands, Eastridge, Tafelsig, Beacon Valley and Portlands - flared up at the end of January between the Fancy Boys, Junior Cisko Yakkies, Junior Mafias and the Ghetto Kids.

"It's a genocide," De Villiers insists.

Less than 20km away, Bonteheuwel is equally volatile, but it has a lower body count.

Seventeen people have been killed since January 1.

Western Cape Community Safety MEC Alan Winde wrote to Minister of Police Bheki Cele this week, asking him to intervene in gang-ravaged areas by deploying the army. His request was turned down.

In a statement, he said Cele's response to his letter was: "The crime situation is handled by the South African Police Service. There is no need for the SANDF to be deployed in the Western Cape, the current interventions are yielding positive results."

Winde believes the deployment would also free up police and assist them to "do investigations and make arrests", while acting as a peace-keeping force.

"We know there are 10 murders and 10 attempted murders a day in our province; we know that 7 out of the top 10 murder stations are in the Western Cape. If this is not horrific enough to move the minister to respond to the cry of the people, nothing is," Winde said.

'Hard-handed approach'

De Villiers, however, said he understood the difficulty in deploying the army to intervene in community safety as the matter had been raised with the minister during an anti-crime engagement in 2018.

"That's not what they're there for. The army has a hard-handed approach. We need a force that considers the community," he said.

"Deploying the army means there is a greater chance of innocent people losing their lives."

Cele previously told the media that soldiers were not trained in policing, but for military situations.

The launch of the Anti-Gang Unit and Operation Thunder - through which members from specialised units from other provinces will be brought in to deal with crime in the Western Cape - resulted in a somewhat quiet period from August into the festive season, De Villiers said.

But gun-wielding gangsters have regrouped, he said, making the authorities' actions responsive and not pro-active.

"What we need is more visible policing," he insisted, pointing out that the two police stations serving Mitchells Plain were understaffed while the "good members" were overworked.

Winde said he would engage with his department's legal team for advice on steps which can be taken, including the option of declaring an inter-governmental dispute "to at a bare minimum, compel Minister Cele to immediately address our under-resourcing in the province".

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