Durban – Cape Town’s notorious Hard Livings gang has set up base in a Durban community and have launched a full-scale drug war on a local gang that has resulted in a series of tit-for-tat murders in recent weeks.
While figures could not be independently verified by police, community members say more than 20 people have been killed in the past three months alone, as the Hard Livings gangsters try to wrest control over the lucrative illicit drug trade in Sydenham – west of the city – from the Sydenham Heights Boys.
The latest victims in the drug war are 22-year-old Larvice Nashiville and 24-year-old Roberta Sing who were gunned down in Georgehill Road on Sunday by five men who sprayed bullets in their direction.
It is believed that the attack was in retaliation for another shooting just days earlier.
A 28-year-old man from Cape Town survived the shooting after taking a bullet to the side of his chest.
Robert Sing, the father of Roberta, said his daughter was shot in the head.
She was pregnant and had two other children, aged five and two who lived with their grandmother.
Robert said his daughter was living with her boyfriend in Georgehill Road in Sydenham and admitted that she had “gone off the rails” with drugs but said she did not deserve the way she died.
“She was shot in the back of the head,” he said.
“To see my daughter like that, to see a mother’s heart shattered was a painful experience.
“Her two children will not get to know her and that for us as a family is hard to come to terms with…
“We have to ask ourselves where are the police in all of this?
“People are literally dying over R30 worth of drugs because there are just no jobs and they are desperate,” he said.
The recent murders are part of a growing list that stretches back almost five years when the Hard Livings gang first moved into the Sydenham community.
IOL, through interviews with multiple police sources, community members and gang affiliates has established that the Hard Livings gangsters – known locally as the “Kaapies” – were brought into Durban by a local drug kingpin who lived in Cape Town and formed a relationship with former Hard Livings gang boss, Rashied Staggie.
Staggie was gunned down in Salt River in Cape Town in 2019.
It is alleged that the local kingpin brought in more than 30 Hard Living gangsters to Sydenham after several of his drug “shops” were robbed in Sydenham Heights which are three high rise blocks of former tenement buildings that have for years been plagued by gangsterism, drugs and violence.
Before the eThekwini municipality sold off the individual flats to residents in an effort to get rid of its rental stock, Sydenham Heights was divided into blocks of A, B and C.
The Hard Livings gangsters set themselves up in C block, Matlock Grove - a warren of shacks behind C block and an informal settlement in Georgehill Road – less than 1km away from Sydenham Heights.
It has been from here where they have launched a full-on attack on rival drug peddlers based in A block where running gang battles have been fought.
Scores of gangsters from both sides of have been killed in recent years and there are fears that the drug war is only going to escalate in the coming weeks.
“There have been occasions where the gangsters are shooting at each other for more than three hours and not a single policeman will come, yet the police station is just up the road,” a resident of Sydenham Heights told IOL.
“These gun fights happen sometimes no more than 200m apart.
“When this happens everyone just locks themselves up.
“People are terrified and we feel like there is no help for us because the police just don’t care,” the resident said.
A mother of three who spoke to IOL on condition of anonymity as she is too scared to be named said that her children were forced to stay indoors.
“I grew up in Sydenham Heights and even though there were gangsters and drugs back then we could play outside for hours and not worry about anything.
“Now there are just shootings and we are too scared to let our children play outside.
“They rather stay inside and play video games,” she said.
Another resident agreed.
“Not just for the children but us adults as well.
“We all feel like prisoners in our homes because we are afraid to go out as we may get hit by a stray bullet.
“So many people are even scared to go to work,” he said.
Many residents who spoke to IOL feel the police are complicit and are either unable to arrest the situation or don’t know how.
“It will be very simple for the police to end this drug war.
“All they need to do is set up a satellite police station in Sydenham Heights that is manned 24 hours by police.
“The shootings and the drug dealing will stop immediately.
“But we suspect that they don’t want to do this because they are on the take and will lose money if they do”.
IOL sent the KZN Police Media Centre a list of questions related to the flare up in violence in Sydenham on Monday. While acknowledging receipt of the questions, police had not responded to them by midday on Tuesday.
Among the question IOL asked were:
- Has anyone been arrested for the recent shootings?
- What is behind the shootings?
- What is being done by the police to bring calm to this situation?
- How many people have been killed by the violence and how many people have been successfully prosecuted in connection with the violence?
- The community members IOL has spoken to says that they have been let down by police, who seem incapable of bringing the situation under control. What is the police’s response to this?