Battle for Cape Town drug turf: 9 killed in 3 weeks of 'urban terror'

A fight between rival gangs over parks from where they want to control and sell drugs has resulted in nine murders in less than a month and 10 people being wounded in a Cape Town suburb at the heart of the intense gun battles.

Rival gangsters, according to sources, have been fighting to control parks in the suburb of Mitchells Plain, east of the Cape Town city centre, which they view as turf from which to sell drugs.

Of the 10 people wounded since July 28, at least three are children.

On Sunday, two separate shootings rocked the area.

In the one incident, a 10-year-old girl and 13-year-old boy became the latest victims of the gang war when they were struck by bullets. A third person was also wounded.

READ: Two children and man hit in another Mitchells Plain shooting

In the second incident, around 23:35 on Sunday, a 35-year-old man was shot dead in Westridge, Mitchells Plain.

Western Cape police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Andrè Traut said the motive for the murder had not yet been established.

The gun battles have been spread out over Lentegeur, which is part of Mitchells Plain, and other smaller areas within the suburb.

News24 understands that members of various gangs, including the Junior Cisko Yakkies, Fancy Boys, Dixie Kids and Nice Time Kids, are fighting each other to control parks in Lentegeur from where they want to sell drugs.

On July 6, a nine-year-old boy was wounded during a shooting in Mitchells Plain and, barely a week later, more gun battles erupted.

The recent, more intense spate of shootings started in the area on July 12.

Timeline of shootings

 - It is understood that the spate of shootings was sparked on July 12, when three suspected senior members of the Junior Cisko Yakkies gang were murdered in a drive-by shooting at an intersection in Lentegeur. Members of this gang then retaliated, targeting rivals including members of the Fancy Boys;

 - Four days after the triple murder, a 23-year-old man was shot dead inside the Eastridge Clinic in Mitchells Plain. Other patients had been present and the clinic is in close proximity to the local police station;

READ: Man shot dead in Mitchells Plain clinic, metres from police station

 - On July 28, one man was killed in a shooting in Lentegeur, and two others were wounded;

 - Five nights later, on August 2, Mitchells Plain became the scene of frenzied gun battles. One person was killed and five others, including a scholar, were wounded at three different scenes between 19:10 and 19:25;

 - The next day, August 3, a man was shot dead in Lentegeur. His body was found in a backyard with a gunshot wound to the head. That same morning, a 23-year-old man was found murdered in Tafelsig, in Mitchells Plain;

 - In the Lentegeur shootings on Sunday, the 13-year-old boy was wounded in the head, the 10-year-old girl in the leg, and a was man wounded in his right arm, while the 35-year-old man was murdered in Westridge.

Children increasingly victims of 'urban terror'

On Monday, Mitchells Plain community police forum’s (CPF) chairperson Abie Isaacs said the current spate of shootings was not normal, as the victims were much younger than usual.

"This is basically uncommon to us as the CPF. The shooting is now where innocent children have become the victims," he said.

"What’s happening on the Cape Flats, and not just in Mitchells Plain, but all over, it’s current urban terror."

READ: Cape Town's children - a generation at gang gunpoint

Isaacs said crime prevention projects targeting young adults and children were continuously being held to try and steer them away from potentially becoming involved in gangs.

Guns, drugs seized

He said members of the community police forum had met with provincial police managers late last week.

A police base camp was recently also set up in Mitchells Plain as part of a national police crackdown known as Operation Thunder. Isaacs said this had helped in tracing and seizing illegal firearms.

On Thursday, Western Cape police announced that two men had been arrested in Mitchells Plain after drugs and firearms, including a .38 special revolver and two pistols, were discovered in premises in Beacon Valley, another area in the suburb.

On July 29, a police statement was also issued saying that, "in an effort to clamp on gangsterism and its manifestations", police in Lentegeur had arrested six suspects the day before.

Four pistols, seven magazines and 97 rounds of ammunition, as well as heroin, had also been confiscated.

Aside from these inroads, Isaacs said there were still problems that needed further attention.

This included suspects being arrested and then the cases against them being withdrawn without adequate reasoning being provided.

Isaacs also said that, when it came to policing, politics needed to be put aside.

Guns stolen from cops, 'given to gangsters'

News24 previously reported on another issue impacting on Mitchells Plain and gang violence. On August 26, a formal firearms audit and inspection was conducted at the police's Mitchells Plain Community Service Centre and it was discovered that 15 police handguns – with loaded magazines, containing 225 rounds of 9mm ammunition – were missing.

At the time, then-police minister Fikile Mbalula said that police officers had likely smuggled the firearms to gangsters.

In a previous Cape Town Labour Court case, documents had revealed that at least 1 066 murders, 1 403 attempted murders and 315 other crimes had been committed with guns stolen from the police. Among those incidents were the shootings of 261 children.

READ: Top cops claim critical investigations derailed by politics

This case had centred around Major General Jeremy Vearey, the Western Cape's head of detectives, and Lieutenant General Peter Jacobs, the head of the country's crime intelligence unit.

While Jacobs and Vearey were working on the massive gun smuggling investigation in mid-2016, they were suddenly transferred from their positions in the province.

According to court papers, they said they believed that among the reasons for this were political perceptions about them and the fact that police officers were among those they were probing.