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Cape Town - A chilling new gang known as the Young Gifted Boys has taken over P and Q sections of Blikkiesdorp, residents allege, killing rival gangsters in the 26 and 28 gangs and subjecting residents to a reign of terror.
Members are very young; children as young as 11 have been seen carrying guns.
Public executions are becoming commonplace in Delft, Blikkiesdorp and Belhar as turf wars escalate, as The Gifted - as they are also called - try to wrest control of the areas from more established gangs.
Police say gangsters are becoming more brazen in their quest to control lucrative drug turf by walking up to rivals in broad daylight and shooting them - there have been at least 10 such cases in the past three months.
Innocent bystanders are being caught in the crossfire.
On Monday night, notorious 28s gang member Brandon Dickson was shot in the face by a gunman from a rival gang in front of the busy Airport Mall on Belhar Drive.
Dickson died at the scene.
Lieutenant-Colonel Andrè Traut said the reasons for these “summary executions” varied, but gang members were generally killed over territory or as payback for a drug deal gone sour.
He added that the attacks were conducted in plain sight of passers-by to send a message to locals not to testify against gang members in court.
The Monday attack follows another on Saturday, when 28s gangster Hilton Jacobs was gunned down in Blikkiesdorp. Police said that there had been 10 gang executions in the street in the past three months.
Traut said the gang violence and shootings posed a great threat to the community and residents.
“These gangsters shoot indiscriminately and have no regard for innocent human lives or well-being.”
In the past few weeks, a 14-year-old girl was killed in the crossfire of a gang execution in which a gunman opened fire on a stationary vehicle.
Last week, an 11-year-old boy - a passenger in a car - saved his own life by crouching behind the back seat when gunmen opened fire on the car’s occupants.
One passenger was killed, and the driver was seriously wounded.
Traut said dealing with informal, street and mainstream gangs was never easy because issues such as poverty, unemployment and lack of parental supervision all contributed to the growth of gangs.
Meanwhile, Blikkiesdorp is in the grip of a violent new gang, say residents of the temporary relocation area.
A local community leader, who declined to be identified because she feared gangsters would come after her children, said the trouble had started last year when The Gifted moved in.
She claimed the new gang was systematically killing older gangsters to gain control of Blikkiesdorp, Delft and Belhar.
The new gang had residents living in fear, with many complaining they could not even leave their houses without being robbed at gunpoint.
Residents said the new gang was “incredibly violent” and unflinching in its mission to take over Blikkiesdorp. Stores in the township were robbed almost daily and gang-run drug houses were springing up on every corner.
Gangsters went from house to house charging residents protection money.
One resident said it was common for her to wake up and find a group of gangsters at her front door.
“If you don’t stand up to them they will just walk in and take what they want,” she said.
Residents said the gang members were mainly made up of youngsters, and children as young as 11 could be seen walking around with guns.
Another Blikkiesdorp woman said her 16-year-old daughter was hit in the leg when gang members tried to gun down Brandon Dickson last year.
“I’ve had to send all of my children away from here because I’m scared of what they (the Gifted) might do to them,” she said.
The mother of murdered 28s gangster Hilton Jacobs said there had been multiple attempts on her son’s life.
“They even threatened his children,” she said.
She said Jacobs had been in the process of reforming his life and had taken a stand against the Gifted.
“He was helping us stand up against them and they didn’t like that.”
The people of Blikkiesdorp are calling for swift action to have the new gang removed from the township.
“We are gatvol of living in fear,” said one resident.
Police said there had been progress in clamping down on the gangs in Delft.
Since the beginning of this month, 180 people have been arrested for crimes related to gang activity and nine firearms have been confiscated.