Following 11 deaths and 10 injuries in gang-related shoot-outs in Hanover Park in the past month, Community Safety MEC Dan Plato has taken a sharp swipe at police, accusing them of being unable to curb gun-runners supplying firearms in the Cape Flats gang wars.
Plato said that the sale of guns had become the second-most lucrative illegal trade in the Western Cape, behind drugs.
Other areas affected by gang violence include Lavender Hill, Mitchells Plain, Khayelitsha and Gugulethu.
“The guns are seemingly flooding the streets, and the problem is further compounded by the types of guns,” Plato said, explaining that while older models had been the previous norm, they were now seeing new, higher calibre guns being used in shoot-outs.
“These guns are being confiscated on a daily basis, but even larger numbers continue to flow freely on to the streets,” he said.
Police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut said police had tracked down several possible sources of the guns, but would not provide details, saying it could jeopardise investigations.
In the latest incident, on Tuesday, metro police confiscated a 9mm Pietro Beretta from a home in Hanover Park, along with 41 rounds of ammunition, including rounds for guns other than the Beretta. The haul included 23 9mm rounds, 15 .38 rounds, one .45 round, one 7.65 calibre round, and a .32 calibre round. Three magazines and two suppressors (silencers) were also found.
Traut said 180 suspects had been arrested in the past three months for serious gang-related crimes.
During the same period, 217 firearms had been confiscated in the Western Cape, and 219 suspects arrested in connection with these incidents.
“Serious and violent crimes are high on our priority list, and various initiatives are applied to police these crimes. Gang-related crimes are also categorised as such, and receive the same priority treatment,” Traut said, adding that initiatives depended on “circumstances and infrastructure”. Disclosing more information could hamper the effectiveness of such initiatives.
Plato said he could not understand the lack of action, if such information was indeed available.
“People are literally dying every day we wait, and the sooner the police act the better.”
He complained that the lack of action also left communities with the perception that police were incapable of protecting them, which prompted “vigilante justice”.
Plato said nine reports of vigilante killings had been reported in the Western Cape in the past 16 days.
Another incident was confirmed on Saturday, when police spokesman Captain Frederick van Wyk told Weekend Argus that Harare police were called out just before 7am.
In an open field, in block 56 Makhaza, behind the Khayelitsha Shoprite store, they found the burned body of an unidentified person who had been stoned and assaulted, then set alight. Plato said that while acts of vigilantism, or attacks on police could never be condoned, “
one can understand their rage when they are the victims of these crimes, coupled with a lack of belief in the police”.
Weldon Cameron, Hanover Park Community Police Forum spokesman, also said that the forum had been successful in tracking down the sources of the guns coming into the area. But he would also not elaborate.
He said that while the source of guns was known, they would instead rely on peace treaties.
“I cannot comment on why the treaties are the chosen route, other than it is a safety issue.
“Any other course of action could result in more casualties,” he said.