Cape Town. 111129. Johanna Samuels, clutching the hand of five-year-old Ashleen Peters(cor), walks by a mural in Lavender Hill dedicated to three teenagers gunned down earlier this year. Photo by Michael Walker

About a month ago, gun battles and shootings were a common occurrence in Lavender Hill, but for a week the community has been free of gang violence and the sounds of gunshots.

The absence of violence has been attributed to a peace accord the leaders of rival gangs in Lavender Hill signed a week ago.

The community, located near Muizenberg, was the second of three gang-ridden areas in the province to agree to an accord, which was driven and backed by community safety MEC Dan Plato and which involved rival gangsters vowing to stop fighting each other.

Three days after Lavender Hill gangsters signed a peace agreement, rival gangsters in Elsies River had done the same.

Last month, a peace accord between gangs was also signed in Hanover Park.

Yesterday, Plato said that, since the agreements had been signed, incidents of violence in the three areas had decreased dramatically. He said there had been no shootings in Lavender Hill since last week.

Plato said that, aside from police, he had worked with a number of different people, some of them viewed as controversial, when setting up the peace accords.

“I know these accords have been viewed with some scepticism, but it may prove to be the correct approach, looking at the relative calm being experienced now.”

Plato said religious leaders in the communities were instrumental in communicating with and getting gangsters to agree to stop fighting.

He had also worked with the Western Cape Community Outreach Programme, of which self-confessed former 28s gang member Ernest Solomon, better known as “Ernie Lastig”, was a member.

In Lavender Hill last week, Solomon, in front of Plato, had addressed the gangsters preparing to sign the peace accord.

Yesterday, Plato said he would work with anyone willing to tackle the gang problem, even ex-gangsters and those currently in gangs.

He was not ashamed of who he worked with and said when peace accords were signed it was under condition the media were allowed to be present.

Plato was now trying to implement plans to ensure the three current peace agreements would last. For example, in Lavender Hill, Plato said, residents had asked him to help them set up sporting activities.

Plato planned to deliver soccer and netball balls to the area.

He said he hoped peace accords would be signed in other gang-inflicted areas including Mitchells Plain and Kalksteenfontein.

l Yesterday, Plato visited the Mitchells Plain town centre unannounced.

He said he had been with a few people, whom he declined to identify, who had gone to see how easy it was to buy drugs. These people had managed to buy tik.

“Drugs are freely available on the street. There’s no shortage. There was police and law enforcement and the deals were happening under their noses,” Plato said.

He had been to other areas where he said he had witnessed how easy it was to buy drugs. - Cape Times

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