Bigwig gangsters arrested: Cele

Bheki Cele, the Minister of Police, reports on the successes of the Anti-Gang Unit and SAPS anti-gang strategy at the Thusong Centre in Tafelsig.

A number of high flyers (gang members) have been arrested on various charges, ranging from murders, attempted murders, possession and dealing of drugs and firearms as well as possession of stolen property, Bheki Cele, the Minister of Police, said while reporting on the successes of SAPS’ anti-gang strategy at the Thusong Centre in Tafelsig last week.

“Thirty-five prominent gang leaders have been targeted, 266 gang strongholds have been searched since Monday October 8 to date and out of the 110 charges, 61% of the arrested high flyers are still in custody,” said Mr Cele.

He and national SAPS Commissioner, General Khehla John Sitole, unravelled the recent developments and successes of the anti-gang strategy on Thursday November 29.

The anti-gang strategy, which also incorporates Operation Thunder, was bolstered by the launch of the Anti-Gang Unit in Hanover Park by President Cyril Ramaphosa on November 2, a month after it began its operations in the province.

The gathering in Tafelsig was dedicated to victims of gender-based violence as the international 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children Campaign are observed from November 25 to December 10.

The plight of Western Cape communities was confirmed by the release of the 2017/2018 crime statistics in September. Of the top 10 murder police stations in the country, seven stations are in the Western Cape. During the 2017/2018 financial year, 3 729 cases of murder were recorded in the Western Cape, which saw an increase of 12.6% (418 counts) compared to the 2016/2017 period.

Gang-related murders are a contributor to the Western Cape’s high murder statistics, contributing to 808 (22%) of confirmed murders, which was an increase from the previous year.

The prevalence of gang-related violence resulted in the escalation of murders and attempted murders to the extent that urgent intervention was needed. The killings by gangs in the province have contributed to the overall death toll resulting in an increase in statistics of this province, said Mr Cele.

The Plainsman has reported on several of these killings and shootings over the past year (“9 killed in 9 days”, Plainsman, April 11, “Gang war rages”, Plainsman, July 18, “Teen dies protecting his friends”, Plainsman, August 1, “Another bloody weekend”, Plainsman, August 18, “No more value to life”, Plainsman, September 26 and “ ‘Gang’ house menace”, Plainsman October 17).

As part of the SAPS mandate and continued efforts to address crime, in May this year during the department’s budget vote, Operation Thunder was launched with 241 SAPS members to deal with murders in the Cape Metropole. Following this, five strategically located SAPS base camps were established.

Since the inception of Operation Thunder on Friday May 11, a total of 60 399 people have been charged, in all categories of crime in the province.

Prior to the inception of the Anti-Gang Unit operations, gang-related incidents during the period from Wednesday September 26 to Wednesday October 3 peaked to 63 murders and attempted murders. After the inception of the Anti-Gang Unit murders and attempted murders have dropped to 28 during the period from Thursday November 15 to Wednesday November 21.

The goal is to dismantle the criminal enterprise of gangs with the intention to eradicate the economic profits generated by the defined organised criminality, said Mr Cele. In one incident, six gang members were arrested for possession of three firearms and drugs to the value of R1 million in an informal settlement in Philippi (“Fancy Boys vas, R1m in drugs seized”, Daily Voice, November 8).

“The amount of work done thus far is acknowledged while we realise a lot still needs to be done with local communities embracing efforts to create a safe and secure environment for all.”

Safety structures have been working closely with the Criminal Justice Cluster. They have intensified efforts for the successful opposing of bail applications in the arrests actioned by the Anti-Gang Unit, Mr Cele said.

They are working on the establishment of dedicated courts to handle gang-related cases to expedite the finalisation of criminal cases and to ensure convictions.

“Crime fighting in the Western Cape will no longer be the same under my watch as the Minister of Police and it will never be business as usual. Children must feel safe to jump around in the streets and parks to play as they wish and not jump around to dodge gangster bullets,” said Mr Cele.