Residents of Newfields Village have been gripped by fear in recent weeks, as the rampant gang violence in neighbouring Hanover Park threatens to spill over into their housing scheme.
Locals say warring gang members from Hanover Park are already using the low-cost residential area to store drugs and guns, and that they’re also on a mission to recruit Newfields Village youths to join their gangs.
The resurgence of gang violence in Hanover Park centres on two main gangs, the Americans and the Mongrels, who constantly fight for turf – and who have reneged on an earlier peace accord.
Gang shootouts there have claimed at least 11 lives and left scores of other people injured in the past month alone.
In the most recent incident, on Thursday, a three-year-old child was grazed by a bullet, narrowly escaping death. A 55-year-old woman was shot in the face.
While Newfields Village has previously been spared gang violence, residents are now afraid their luck is running out. They say they have to deal with members of the Junky Funky Kids, Laughing Boys, Ghetto Kids and Fancy Boys, who are all in some way affiliated to the bigger gangs.
“This war is heading our way, and neither the police nor the politicians are prepared to step in. We are told their hands are tied unless something happens,” one resident said.
Another claimed they were “under siege” as youngsters with ambitions of joining gangs in the area targeted mothers, fathers and children on their way to work or school.
One woman, who would not be named because she said she feared retribution, was attacked on her way to work in the early hours on Wednesday. Her handbag was ripped from her arm by a knife-wielding teen who threatened to stab her, and she said she survived the ordeal by praying.
“I held on to my bag for as long as I could, until I saw the knife and then I started praying. My attacker was aiming to cut my face. It was the most terrifying experience, but luckily I survived.
“It might be seen as petty crime, but our own people are hurting us and the police are not doing much to help.”
An elderly couple who have lived in the area since 2000 said they had been caught up in a gun battle while on their way home from church.
“It’s a terrifying experience. It can happen in a blink of an eye and I’m way too old to run away. So you end up ducking with your walking stick in hand, or trying to get away without being spotted,” the 75-year-old man said.
The couple added that in all the time they’d lived in Newfields Village they’d never seen a police patrol.
“It’s like they are ignoring the people from the village because it is not Hanover Park, where all the gangsters usually fight…”
Community leader Gary Hartzenberg said people were fed-up.
The gang members continuously harassed him, he added, saying they gathered in groups of 11 next to his corner house, smoking dagga, doing drugs and vandalising his home.
“It was four in the morning when they decided to pay me a visit. I suspect these youngsters are members of the Fancy Boys and the Laughing Boys.”
A taxi driver in the area said even they were being targeted by feuding gangs.
“Mongrel members are always at the terminus collecting ‘tax’ from drivers. And if the driver refuses the passengers are targeted. If you don’t give, you are robbed.”
The man said: “They will wait until they get you, and take everything. I’ve been threatened at gunpoint, but I do not easily give up my hard-earned money.”
Residents said they were now considering starting street committees to address the social ills.
Responding to residents’ complaints, police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Andre Traut encouraged residents to report their complaints to the station commander or cluster commander responsible for their specific area.