Cape Town - Khayelitsha residents have come to rely on taxi drivers rather than police officers to break up gang fights in the area, a local woman said in Cape Town on Friday.
Testifying in the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry into alleged police inefficiency in the area, Nokuzola Mcaphancapha said she had lost faith in the police to protect her and her children from violent gangsters.
Her area, Harare, and the high school children living there were automatically associated with the “Vuras” gang, while the “Vatos” gang was active in nearby Kuyasa.
When the gangs disagreed, violence spilled out onto the streets, forcing parents to hide their children who often got caught in fights.
Mcaphancapha said her children often missed school, especially on Fridays, when panga-wielding boys roamed the streets of the township. Police often did not arrive in time, or when they did arrive they did little to calm tensions.
“We do have those taxi men, because they go straight to the guys 1/8gangsters 3/8,” Mcaphancapha said.
“The boys know the police cannot shoot them... because their hands are tied. They know the taxi men will do something.”
She added that all it took was a phone call to the taxi associations, who would send drivers to the area to break up fights, adding the service was “free of charge”.
During cross examination by lawyer Thabani Masuku, for the police, Mcaphancapha agreed that the parents of the boys who participated in gang activities could do more to steer their children away from crime. She however doubted the police would make a difference.
The taxi drivers, however, were able to deal with the problem.
“They (taxi associations) know the (gang) bosses in Kuyasa, they know the (gang) bosses in Harare. There will be no fights without the approval of the bosses. They talk to the (gang) bosses and discipline them and the followers become less aggressive?” Masuku asked.
“Yes,” Mcaphancapha said.
She said police would sometimes lock the boys up overnight and release them a day or two later to continue terrorising residents.
The taxi associations' interventions were often more effective and longer-lasting, she said.
“It makes a difference,” Mcaphancapha told commissioners.
The commission, headed by retired Constitutional Court judge Kate O'Regan and advocate Vusi Pikoli, was set up after complaints by local civic organisations and NGOs that increased cases of mob justice were due to police inefficiency.
The commission was initially delayed after objections by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa. In October last year Mthethwa lost his Constitutional Court bid to have the commission scrapped.
Friday marked the end of the commission's second week.