GANG-RELATED deaths have soared in townships across the Western Cape – and authorities are warning that an even bigger spike in killings can be expected as the holiday season approaches.
And in another disturbing development, an increasing number of young people are joining gangs, with fights between rival gangsters becoming increasingly vicious.
In recent weeks, eight youngsters were shot and killed in a series of tit-for-tat attacks.
Four of the youngsters were slain in Crossroads – and then, in what was described as a revenge attack for the Crossroads killings, four others, plus a parent, were killed in Lower Crossroads.
Soon afterwards, a gang of nine armed men ambushed four people in Crossroads. Four people were killed.
In other gangster-related violence, Vuyani Rafisa, 58, of Khayelitsha, was shot in the head.
His wife, Vuyiswa, was shot in the shoulder by a member of a group of about 20 unknown men, who were looking for their 16-year-old son.
The same group also killed two teenagers.
Authorities attributed the youth gang warfare to fights over drug turf, boredom, revenge and non-caring parents.
In Lavender Hill, gun battles among the Mongrels, Junky Funky Kids and Fast Guns have traumatised pupils and teachers at schools in Lavender Hill.
Roscoe Jacobs, convener of #GangsterismMustFall, has pleaded with the Western Cape Education Department and the police to protect pupils at these and other schools.
“We want to see an increase in police visibility in communities such as Lavender Hill, Manenberg, Elsies River, Ocean View, Hanover Park, Khayelitsha and Nyanga,” he said.
Mayoral committee safety and security member JP Smith said gang wars increased during school holidays.
He said in Khayelitsha the majority of participants in the activities of the Vatos and Vuras gangs are of school- going age. In the holidays, they spend more time in public spaces where gang conflict can arise, he said.
“Youth-based gangs are not economically or mission-driven. They tend to lack structural hierarchy or communication. Generally, they are motivated by territorial concerns, revenge, power and boredom,” said Smith.
He said statistics show the increase in gang wars can be attributed to the increased mingling of residents in public recreational spaces, especially where alcohol is consumed.
The Vatos and the Vuras, as well as other youth gangs in townships (Long Islands, Moscow, etc), have a relatively low impact on general violence, with murders by the youth making up a maximum of 14 percent of murders in a given month, Smith said.
Nyanga Community Police Forum secretary Dumisani Qwabe said gang wars would end when teenagers start pointing out gang members, and when parents start monitoring the behaviour of their children.
Community Safety MEC Dan Plato urged communities to report gang activities to the police.
“Any escalation in gang- related activity, especially where lives are being lost, is of great concern,” he said.