They did manage to arrest two men.
A 32-year-old man was due to appear in court on drug- related charges when an altercation with a suspected rival gang erupted, according to a court official, who cannot be named because he was not authorised to speak on behalf of the National Prosecution Authority.
The man had been chased outside the court premises before he was attacked. He attempted to seek refuge at a nearby butchery where he collapsed.
Police spokesperson FC van Wyk said the two suspects in their 20s were arrested shortly after the stabbing.
They were expected to appear in the Athlone Magistrate’s Court charged with murder, said Van Wyk.
Athlone Community Policing Forum (CPF) chairperson Aziza Kannemeyer said the rival gangs were to appear in the same court and after an argument, a fight broke out.
“The rival gangs threatened everyone in court. Security guards were hopeless and could do nothing. He (the accused) tried to get away and ran outside the court.
"The fight between the rival gangs continued on the streets, and unfortunately they caught him and stabbed him.
“The public was frightened and for their safety ran to the SAPS police station nearby for protection,” said Kannemeyer.
“The situation was very chaotic even people who had come to court to listen to cases of their family members or friends were running and screaming.”
Kannemeyer said officers from the Athlone Police Station next door were quick to respond, as the screams from members of the public alerted them.
“But, unfortunately they could not stop the stabbing of the individual.”
She called on the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to beef up security measures as rival gangs often fought at the Athlone Magistrate’s Court.
“The Department of Justice has to ensure that cases of rival gangs are separated or this is not going to stop,” she said.
“Very often there are people of rival gangs in court to listen to cases of their peers and when they meet their rivals it’s likely they will fight or approach them,” said Kannemeyer.
She said security guards were powerless and could not do anything as they were not armed and their duties were only to check that those going inside court did not have weapons on them.
The Justice and Constitutional Development’s media officer, Steve Mahlangu, had not responded to queries by deadline.
In 2013 a man was shot and wounded outside the Goodwood Magistrate’s Court in a suspected rival gang fight.
Two months previously two people were shot dead outside the Atlantis Magistrate’s Court and a third wounded in the crossfire.
Also that year Blackheath pastor Albern Martins was shot dead by three men before he was able to make a court appearance accused of fraud, dealing in abalone and drugs.