Cape Town - There has been a welcome lull in gang violence in Lavender Hill in recent weeks, but many residents believe the peace will not last long.
“Things have been much better. I don’t have that feeling of looking over my shoulder every few paces anymore,” said Adinaan Martin, 32, who’s been living in Lavender Hill all his life. “Kids are able to play on the street again – but everyone is asking: ‘How long will it last’?”
But for Abdullah “Hoppie” Galant, who works with the New World Foundation and runs focus groups and a hip hop class for youth in Lavender Hill, the period of quiet has come as a godsend.
“Finally we don’t have to cancel our focus groups and talent shows any more. We can SMS the kids and tell them: ‘Yes, everything is still on for tonight’. Before, we were forever cancelling events.
“What’s more is that we now have the opportunity to bring more and more kids into the talent development programmes because they are no longer so distracted and tempted by the gangsterism.”
Police attribute the peace to what Steenberg station commissioner Colonel Noel Josephs describes as “operation combat”.
“It’s been effective and well received by the community. This has included more visible policing, support from a provincial SAPS unit and better co-ordination on the ground.”
Another contributing factor was a peace treaty brokered between gangs three weeks ago.
However, Martin added: “I have lived here for 32 years, I know how these things work. There is a natural cycle to the violence.
Gang war is expensive, in terms of money and in terms of lives. Gangs use this period to make money through trading drugs, to buy more guns and ammunition. Soon they will begin to recruit new youngsters. The peace treaties are useless.”
MEC for Community Safety Dan Plato agrees: “Gang violence occurs in cycles [and] peace treaties are not meant to be permanent.”
He said specialised units were now needed to identify, arrest and prosecute gangsters who had committed crimes in recent months.
But for Martin, the solution is not as simple as jailing the gangsters.
“It’s all about the drugs and money. And here we are talking about a massive network that includes police corruption, political corruption and supply chains that go far beyond Lavender Hill. Until you can stop the drug trade… the peace will always be an illusion. It’s much more difficult to do than it is to lock a few gangsters up.”