Three rival gangs operating in Da Gama Crescent, Belhar, are allegedly deliberately vandalising street lights to use the darkness to shoot at each other. Picture: Bongani Mbatha/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - Three rival gangs operating in Da Gama Crescent, Belhar, are allegedly deliberately vandalising street lights to use the darkness to shoot at each other and rob residents.

This crescent has been in total darkness for eight days and a 14-year-old pupil, Edwill Keith from Excelsior High School, was killed by a stray bullet. Local ANC ward councillor Delmaine Cottee said: “Yes, the death of the learner can be attributed to lights being out in Da Gama Crescent. Three gangs operate in this crescent and they use the darkness to either rob people or shoot at each other.

“This problem is not just confined to Da Gama Crescent. I’ve received complaints from people who are robbed in the early hours at the clinic because the street lights are not working. Lights are allegedly deliberately broken or even switched off for certain periods, and switched on again during the day by gangsters, so that they can do their business.”

Community activist Colin Arendse has also taken up the matter with the mayor, Dan Plato, and according to him, the lights in Da Gama Crescent has been out since August 2.

Arendse said a resident reported the matter to councillor Willie Jaftha who allegedly failed to act.

According to Mishka Ganief, a community worker in Atlantis, the same is happening in their community. She added that gunfire could be heard and residents frequently talked of the yellow fire they saw in the dark when a shot was fired.

Abie Isaacs, Mitchells Plain CPF chairperson, said they also had this problem in Tafelsig where shootings between rival gangs take place.

Plato on Monday acknowledged that in Belhar there is a major problem with street light vandalism.

He added that in areas where high rates of vandalism occur, some outages may occur more frequently. On Arendse’s claims that councillor Jaftha failed to act, and the eight-day period of darkness that resulted in shootings that claimed the life of the 14-year-old learner, Plato said: “It is gangsters and a lack of visible policing that lead to street light vandalism and shootings.

“The blatant misinformation spread by Arendse, a known ANC propagandist, is a desperate attempt to score cheap points. The City has tried to fill gaps left by the shortage of police officers through employing additional law enforcement.”

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