Gang violence rocks Rocklands

Mitchell’s Plain police and safety structures are calling on residents to be more involved in fighting crime through community mobilisation. This is after several gang-related shootings occurred in Rocklands.

According to Mitchell’s Plain police, there has been an increase in gang violence in Rocklands over the past three weeks.

While Mitchell’s Plain station commander Brigadier Cass Goolam declined to give specific figures about people killed in gang-related incidents, he said there had been an overall decrease in crime in the area over the past 10 years.

Brigadier Goolam said police members still have a challenge with some residents who do not want to co-operate with the police. “The issue is not solely the police – the community themselves need to take responsibility. And we need communities to come on board because you will find that every time during our operations there is resistance from some in the community because they are benefiting,” he said.

However, he applauded the role played by the community during the arrest of perpetrators involved in recent incidents. “We are in the area and the proof of that is the quick response and arrest of the perpetrators. We have had successes in the recent shootings. The perpetrators are in cells now because of the community who helped us in our investigations,” he said.

Brigadier Goolam said the gang hot spots currently were Eastridge and Rocklands, emphasising that one of the challenges they faced was victims who did not want to come forward. “The purpose of arrest is to take a person before court, based on evidence not because ‘I know’ or hearsay. Hearsay is not accepted in court,” he said.

Captain Ian Williams, spokesperson for Mitchell’s Plain police, said the police station provided support to residents who were concerned about their children who were involved in gangsterism.

“If there is a need for assistance, residents can contact the station. We are able to engage with the schools, if pupils are being threatened by members of gangs, for example. If young people feel threatened, an investigation can be done,” he said.

“However, it is important to note that parents need to speak to their children, guide them, because it all starts at home,” he said.

Brigadier Goolam said residents could get involved in crime fighting, by joining street and block committees, community police forum sub-forums and other safety structures. He added that every area had a sector commander who was willing to assist with setting up the structures. “If residents are serious about tackling crime, then they will take their streets back by being active,” he said.

Norman Jantjes, chairperson of the Mitchell’s Plain United Residents’ Association (MURA), said they were concerned about the increase in gangsterism in Mitchell’s Plain. He said gangsterism might be prevalent in certain areas of Mitchell’s Plain but it impacted on the entire community. “There are various causes for gangsterism but it’s mainly socio-economic. Gangsterism thrives in Mitchell’s Plain because government does not have an integrated and holistic strategy to address it,” Mr Jantjes said.

“It also thrives because we as a community are tolerant towards gangsterism as long as we ourselves don’t become victims. The community does not give sufficient support for community safety structures such as the community police forum (CPF) and the neighbourhood watch groups.”

Mr Jantjes said there needed to be an integrated and holistic gang intervention strategy for Mitchell’s Plain He added that it should be driven by government in partnership with the community.

“It should include SAPS, provincial government, the City of Cape Town and community organisations. It should be developed in collaboration with the community. A holistic gang intervention strategy includes law enforcement which mainly target high flyers and young gang members and other high risk individuals.

“These young persons should be involved in various educational programmes where they can be assisted to become constructive members of the community. Here we need to address issues of substance abuse and vocational skills training.”

Mr Jantjes said Mura had met and planned to have more meetings with SAPS and the various other government departments, He said they planned to meet with the various CPF, watch groups and block committees and religious leaders. “We also plan to work with the various organisations which are addressing the issue of substance abuse as there is an inextricable link between gangsterism and substance abuse,” he said.

Abie Isaacs, chairperson of the Mitchell’s Plain Community Police Forum, said the structure recently assisted in negotiations to broker peace between rival gangs in the Eastridge sector.

He said these wars were usually turf-related (for drug money and territory).

Mr Isaacs said they conducted their awareness campaigns at schools to educate pupils about the risk of drugs and gangs. “These awareness campaigns are ongoing, especially at schools where the crime prevention programmes have various youth at risk programmes which include truancy reduction and talks on bullying, drugs and gangs,” he said.

Mr Isaacs added that school marching and drilling programmes such as the one instituted by Mitchell’s Plain SAPS, also addressed issues of lack of discipline.

“The Great Cape Ambassadors Programme, which exposes children to extreme sports such as spinning as well as DJ-ing and alternative careers and various NGOs and partnerships with churches and hiking clubs and holiday programmes are all part of the awareness and outreach,” he explained.

Ewald Botha, spokesperson for Community Safety MEC Dan Plato, said they only had an oversight mandate over policing in the province.

“SAPS is the mandated authority to prevent, combat and investigate crime, maintain public order, protect and ensure the inhabitants of the republic and their property, uphold and enforce the law, create a safe and secure environment for all people in the country as per the constitution,” he said.

Mr Botha said they did, however, extend their support to the SAPS, communities and organisations.

“While many people in the province are benefiting from adequate policing and proactive and effective community based safety structures, the reality of too many people in the province are still marred by violence, especially interpersonal violence, which we believe are brought about by the prevalence of guns and drugs in our communities and the continued scourge of gangsterism and drugs in our province.”

He said the department focuses its work guided by Chapter 11 of the constitution around a service delivery model called the community safety improvement partnership which aims to promote professional policing through effective oversight, promote safety at all public building and spaces and establishing viable safety partnerships within communities and reduce alcohol-related harms.

Mr Botha also emphasised that the department has adopted the National Anti-Gangsterism Strategy (NAGS). “This strategy outlines the adoption of an effective co-ordinated and interdepartmental approach guided by government policies and strategies. It aims to promote a community-centred approach that emphasises dialogue, accountability to communities and addressing root causes and enabling factors,” he said, adding that it also focuses on partnerships between government and the private sector, civil society and communities.

Mr Botha said the objective is to mitigate the risks posed by gang-related activities through prevention, containment, management and mitigation mechanisms to address gangsterism within and outside of correctional facilities.