DURBAN – Running gun battles, children ducking for cover under beds, drive-by shootings and bullet holes in walls. All scenes that are foreign to those living in upmarket estates around Durban, but for others living just roads away, it has become a “norm”.
Every other weekend is a scene straight out of a western movie with communities pleading with police to step up patrols and take tougher action.
The areas of Wentworth and Sydenham have become war zones for opposing cartels, all fighting for a stake of the city’s drug trade. While mothers mourn the loss of sons and daughters, sometimes killed in the heat of a shoot-out or hit by a stray bullet, drug lords continue to recruit youngsters to sell for them.
In June, a suspected drug lord was gunned down outside the Lenmed Shifa Private Hospital. Sources revealed that the shooting stemmed from an ongoing turf war between a Cape Town gang and a gang from Sydenham.
The Mercury reported that there were numerous rounds of gunshots fired, at least 30, and high-calibre guns were used such as an AK-47.
Two years ago, Simone Jasmin, another suspected drug lord, was gunned down on the Bluff. At the time, the Daily News reported that "Moni" was shot just after she got into a metered taxi on the corner of Marine Drive and Blackpool Road.
According to sources, Simon had just taken her seat in the taxi when gunmen shot her. It is alleged one of the gunmen opened the door of the taxi and shot her at close range. It is thought six shots were fired in her direction.
After each shooting, voice notes circulated of reprisal attacks which left communities, once again, living in fear. After the shooting in June, police increased patrols in the area.
There is no simple solution to rooting out drug cartels. Often, police officers, some high-ranking officials within SAPS, are linked to kingpins.
Community activist Desmond D'sa said the escalation in violence in Wentworth hasd spilled over into schools. Earlier this year, teenagers were engaged in ongoing fights inside and outside school grounds.
A parents who spoke to IOL on the condition of anonymity, said that as a working parent, it was “scary” for her because in the back of her mind she was constantly fretting over her child’s safety at school.
In an article for The Conversation, criminologist Guy Lamb, weighed in on the issue of turf wars and mass shootings.
He explained that the first entails the establishment of targeted police operations that focus on the confiscation of illegal firearms and ammunition where the risk of mass shootings is the highest.
"This is critically important as the upturn in violent crime appears to be linked to the widespread availability of illegal firearms. These are the most common weapon used to commit murder, attempted murder and robberies with aggravating circumstances in the country.
“This would need to be linked to a process of tightening the firearm law to reduce the diversion of firearms into criminal hands. More than 5 000 licensed firearms are lost or stolen each year.
“The second option necessitates considerable intelligence gathering. The police service’s crime intelligence arm needs to be able to identify and monitor the activities of groups responsible for mass shootings to secure arrests and convictions in court," he said.