Within the space of a few weeks, at least 12 people have been killed due to gang violence in Mitchell’s Plain – a scourge the police hope their National Anti-Gangsterism Strategy will be able to tackle.
The main objectives of the strategy were to disable, dislodge and weaken the capacity of gangs to operate in the different areas, said Deputy Police Minister Bongani Mkongi, at a media briefing at Parliament, on Thursday September 7.
Mr Mkongi was accompanied by Western Cape acting police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khombinkosi Elvis Jula.
The strategy, Mr Mkongi said, would try to mobilise and organise communities against gangs and their criminal activities.
Mr Mkongi also responded to questions about 15 state-issued 9mm pistols that went missing from Mitchell’s Plain police station on Friday August 25, and three days later, 18 guns vanished from the Bellville South police station.
He said the matter was under investigation.
Police Minister Fikile Mbalula has also called on the Hawks to speed up investigations.
Last year, a Rondebosch businessman Irshaad Laher was arrested for allegedly buying guns from a police officer and selling them to gangsters. In May, his case at the Western Cape High Court, was postponed until September 22 for further investigation. He is out on R100 000 bail.
Former police colonel Chris Lodewyk Prinsloo, who controlled the Gauteng firearms register, was sentenced in the Bellville regional court in June last year to 18 years jail after he pleaded guilty to more than 20 charges of racketeering, corruption and money laundering.
He and a colleague sold an estimated R9 million worth of illegal weapons and ammunition to Cape Flats ganglords.
Mr Mkongi said that after much debate and deliberation, the strategy had been approved by the Cabinet and would focus on four pillars: human development, social partnerships, spatial design and the criminal justice process.
Mr Mkongi said communities, were a key role-player in the fight against gangs. “The community police forums (CPFs) will assist SAPS in running anti-gangsterism campaigns in communities and schools where we’ve implemented the Safer Schools project.”
“As communities we ought to discourage our youngsters from joining gang formations,” he said.
He said SAPS and law enforcement agencies would perform their visible policing function which consisted of visible deployment and intelligence gathering.
The deployment patterns would be geared towards preventing gang violence and would focus on search and seizure as well as tactical deployment. Operational intelligence would be used to assist in the deployment patterns.
“The Anti-gang Strategy aims to combat gangsterism in the Western Cape. The strategy will be implemented across the province’s gang areas but will have a special and intense focus.
“You cannot address gangs successfully if you also don’t look at the drug trade in the province as they are interlinked and therefore the focus on the illegal drug trade,” he said.
Mr Mkongi said there had been 33 child murders in the province, mostly through gang violence.
“For the ministry of police, this phenomena is a great concern. We are feeling your pain; we don’t only see these innocent killings as statistics but as a loss of human life. As government, we have a constitutional obligation to prevent anything that may threaten the safety of our citizens,” he said.
Mr Mkongi said children were vulnerable, and cannot go to schools, to shops, to church and they were caught in the crossfire.
“We have realised that as the police we could not deal and address the scourge of gang violence alone. We need the assistance from other sectors and the community as well. No one gave birth to a gangster,” he said.
Mr Mkongi urged residents to be active and form part of the community policing structures such as CPFs, neighbourhood watches and, street and block watch structures.
He said crime decreased in areas where communities were mobilising themselves. “We therefore encourage you to volunteer information to the police in order for SAPS to arrest and confiscate contraband. Information can be forwarded anonymously to SAPS through the Crime Stop number 08600 10111. We have an active informer network system in which we urge communities to participate in. You can be rewarded for information,” he said.
Mitchell’s Plain police station commander Brigadier Cass Goolam said there had been an increase in gang violence over the past few months in Mitchell’s Plain.
He added that the gang hot spots were continuously changing and added that recent shootings had taken place in Beacon Valley.
Brigadier Goolam said the station would be implementing the gang strategy.
Speaking about drug dealing in Mitchell’s Plain, Brigadier Goolam said the community needed to be educated on the progress SAPS had made in the fight against crime.
“With a focus on asset forfeiture, several houses were confiscated through the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA), investigation and assets forfeiture.
“Quite often residents are unable to distinguish between place of residence of a drug dealer / runner and the location of the drugs. It doesn’t mean that because the person is a drug dealer that the house is being used as a drug den.
“We have increased successes in the confiscation of large amounts of drugs on the streets and on open fields,” he said.
Abie Isaacs, Mitchell’s Plain Community Police Forum chairman, said he did not yet know how the anti-gang strategy would work or how they would be able to help. “Gangsterism is destabilising our community and creating intensive trauma for residents, particularly our senior citizens, women and children. We are asking that residents come forward with relevant information that would assist the police in executing their mandate for successful prosecution,” he said.
Norman Jantjes, chairman for the Mitchell’s Plain United Residents Association (MURA), said while they waited for the detailed national anti-gang strategy, the structure wished to remind the minister that the province did have a Western Cape provincial gang strategy.
Mr Jantjes is the former Mitchell’s Plain director of the National Institute for Crime Prevention and the Reintegration of Offenders (Nicro), an independent Ward 76 councillor (1996 to 2001) and he also worked for the provincial Department of Community Safety for 11 years, where he was the project manager for the provincial Gang Prevention and Intervention Strategy.
“The problem is that there’s no political will in the province.
“The strategy was developed and signed off by all the provincial government departments and the City of Cape Town in 2008. This strategy includes all the pillars that the minister has alluded to, including community mobilisation, social crime prevention, law enforcement and research.
“This strategy was successfully implemented in areas such as Atlantis where a task team led by the National Prosecuting Authority and SAPS led to the arrest and successful conviction of approximately 60 high flyers (gang bosses).
“The City’s Ceasefire project in Hanover Park was another initiative flowing out of the strategy.”
Mr Jantjes said the community mobilisation pillar was co-ordinated by the provincial Department of Community Safety and included most of the other provincial government departments as well as the City of Cape Town, SAPS and the national Department of Higher Education.
He added that unfortunately all or most of the funding and other resources had been withdrawn.
“So while we agree that we need a broad national strategy Mura is of the opinion that each province is unique and should thus have its own strategy. Each high-risk community should also have a local gang strategy which should be co-ordinated by local stakeholders which include government departments and community structures. This holistic plan should have a minimum of a five-year life span and should be co-ordinated and funded by national, provincial and local government,” Mr Jantjes said.