Durban - Wentworth is on the brink of a turf war as rival gangs jostle for control of the lucrative drug trade in the area.
Despite the recent escalation, senior police and community leaders believe local police are not equipped to deal with the impending war.
With five apparently gang-related deaths in two months and a spate of shootings in the past two weeks, the community is living in fear.
Apart from the shooting of Tevin Rivers in Reiger Road last week, sources with knowledge of the area said there had been at least four more gang-related shootings in recent months – in Woodville Road, Hime Street, Major Calvert Road and Alobama-Wiest roads.
Senior police officers, who cannot be named because they are not authorised to speak to the media, say the provincial SAPS is not taking the problem seriously.
“The local police aren’t equipped for this, and some of them appear to be working with the gangs. It seems the provincial commissioner has no plan to deal with this,” said one.
“This could become a full-on turf war and Wentworth could become ungovernable, like the Cape Flats, if they don’t contain the problem,” said another.
Police have linked the recent shootings to the return of a man, whose name is known to the Sunday Tribune, believed to be the underworld kingpin. He was making a big push to control the drug trade in the area, so more shootings could be expected, said the policemen.
They said the gangs were known to sell drugs such as cocaine, heroin, mandrax, rocks (crack cocaine), dagga and, more recently, whoonga, a popular drug in the community.
Activist Desmond D’Sa has called for a specialised unit to deal with the problem.
“There are a lot of good cops in Wentworth, but their hard work is being undone by a small element working with the gangs. That’s why we need a specialised unit from outside Wentworth to deal with this problem. The killing of young men in our community has to stop,” he said.
Councillor Aubrey Snyman, who has lived in the community for 54 years, said the gang violence dated back more than 50 years, when coloureds were moved to the area under the Group Areas Act.
“It began at Adam’s Café, which was known as the K1 store. People would gather and argue over petty issues until drugs became prevalent. About eight or nine different gangs were formed, from different streets in Wentworth. That’s when the turf wars started,” he said.
The Destroyers and G-Section are the dominant gangs. Their strongholds, three-storey blocks of flats, are 500m apart in Reiger Road.
Tevin Rivers was shot and killed last week, apparently because he was on the wrong turf.
“Gang violence fluctuates. Sometimes things slow down, but it only takes a little incident to spark the violence again,” said Snyman.
Pastor Donny Anderson, the Wentworth Crime Prevention Forum head, and Pastor John Bailey are confident the violence can be curbed. Anderson said they needed more help from the police with anti-drug and anti-violence campaigns.
“We urge the community to work with the police to identify perpetrators, and be proactive in leading our youth to the right path in life,” said SAPS spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker.
He insisted that the provincial commissioner had directed a provincial task team to investigate the latest murder, and said various task teams were working in Wentworth on drug operations.