Base set up
With children as young as 12 wielding guns and an arterial way becoming a war zone between rival gangs, police have set up a base camp in Tafelsig along AZ Berman Drive.
Labelled by locals as a hotspot for gang violence and senseless murders, residents had called for police and council intervention ahead of the camp being set up.
In a letter addressed to local ward councillor, Sheval Arendse, a group of concerned residents wrote the following: “I refer this letter to you out of great concern for the community of Tafelsig, specifically the areas around Banhoek, Badsberg, Bakenskop, Blaauberg, Biedouberg streets and AZ Berman Drive. Shootings occur during the day and night across AZ Berman Main Road with bullets flying down Bakenskop Street and vice versa. Bakenskop Street is used as a thoroughfare for the community to return from or go to work, attend the adjacent high school, or catch a bus or taxi.
“AZ Berman Drive, as you are aware, is one of the major main roads within the Mitchell’s Plain area being used by motorist, buses and taxis on a continuous basis. Today [Monday 9 July], one of the rival shooters who is probably no more than 12-years-old, used a parked vehicle as a shield to attract the attention of the rival gang on the western border of AZ Berman.
“The residents of the road chased him out of the road only for the shooter to return with his gang leader and company. Safe to say if the residents of the area are already in danger, this has not helped to alleviate the situation.”
For fear of being targeted, the letter was signed “concerned Tafelsig resident”.
Arendse confirms they have noted with concern the trend in young children getting more involved with gangs, not only as runners but now as gunmen as well.
“There are 12 and 13-year-olds who are shooting. Sometimes they lay on the roofs with their guns and when they are chased, they throw the guns over the wall and pretend to play dominoes on the street,” says Arendse.
Before the establishment of the camp the area was rife with shooting, with several suspected gangsters and innocent people being caught in the crossfire.
This was coupled with at least one funeral per week, says Charmain Marhorta, Community Policing Forum Subforum West chairperson.
The base camp is part of an initiative by national police under the banner of Operation Thunder, launched by minister for police Bheki Cele in May. The camp is equipped with an operation tent, Nyalas, police vans and other vehicles stationed 24 hours per day. The base was established on Monday last week and residents have already reported a vast improvement in the shooting incidents in the area.
Lydia Nyman, who has been living in the area for the past 37 years, says although there had always been a prevalence of gangs, there has been an increase gang violence in the past eight years.
“The area has become more peaceful, there is a positive improvement since they have set up the base camp here,” she says.
“The shooting was out of control. We felt very uncomfortable in our homes but most of all our children and grandchildren were traumatised. My grandson is scared of the gunfire and even thunder. It was not fair to the elderly residents and children living here to be hostages in our homes.”
Nyman continues that although there has been a decrease in shootings, there has been an increase in house break-ins.
“Random shootings have subsided in the area since the base camp was established. It was very bad in this immediate area. Recently we collected 13 bullet shells and handed it over to police,” says Marhorta.
The locations for the base camps were guided by crime pattern analysis, says Brigadier Novella Potelwa, provincial police spokesperson.
Concerns over incidents of gang violence and other serious violent crimes on the Cape Flats and other townships in the Western Cape necessitated the inception of Operation Thunder that sees 269 additional officers on the street.
Order Police, detectives and Crime Intelligence operatives conducting operations in an effort to quell violent incidents plaguing the Western Cape communities are deployed to base camps, set up at identified hotspots including Worcester, Steenberg, Ravensmead, Philippi East and Tafelsig.
“Guided by the police crime pattern analysis, Operation Thunder will adapt its ways of operation in a bid to be a step ahead of criminal activity. The police remains committed to rooting out serious violent crimes including gang violence in the Western Cape,” says Potelwa.
“An appeal is hereby made to affected communities to support the police’s crime fighting initiatives, as we all strive to create safer communities for all. The war against gang violence and its manifestations can be won if we join hands against criminality.”
Marhorta says the safety volunteers will also continue to give the support, handing over radio details and patrol schedules.
Arendse says they are happy to have the intervention but added that the time period was too short.
“We need the camp to stay until the police station is built next year. It has definitely been a help and we are satisfied. The community is satisfied. The response time is a lot better with the officers here. I appeal to the community to work with the police and pass on information.”
Cele announced that funding would be made available to start construction of the police station in the 2019 financial year. The station will be situated on a plot in Oranje Street.