‘An illegal firearm on every street’

By Kowthar Solomons. Time of article published Jan 18, 2014

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Cape Town - Teenage hitmen as young as 14 are terrorising the streets of Mitchells Plain, and while police battle to curb the rampant gun trade, the increasing use of homemade firearms threatens to further derail any chance of controlling gang violence.

Mitchells Plain’s worst areas, such as Beacon Valley, have at least one illegal gun on every street, according to police.

Gangs are using the bravado of youths as a means to eliminate their rivals, sometimes with crude homemade firearms, all the while racking up the number of innocent deaths.

Brigadier Johan Brandt, acting station commander at Mitchells Plain, said they seized 17 firearms over the past six weeks. But just as quickly, gangsters made their own weapons.

Over the past nine months, the police have seized 145 firearms. During the nine months before that, they seized 129.

Of the most recent haul of confiscated guns, 20 were prohibited firearms, meaning they had had their serial numbers filed off. The others were either stolen during housebreakings, lost, or formed part of a new trend of cases where firearms left as part of a deceased estate were sold without being registered to the new owners.

Brandt said police were facing an uphill battle.

“I cannot estimate how many guns are on the streets of Mitchells Plain, but in the worst areas, like Beacon Valley, Rocklands and Tafelsig, there must be at least one illegal gun for every street,” he said.

Tafelsig is split into west and east gang turfs. The Americans and Fancy Boys are based in the west while the Hard Livings, Hustlers and Rude Boys battle for turf in the east. In Beacon Valley, the Firm Boys, the 28s and Mongrels are dominant.

Brandt revealed they were pursuing several cases of juveniles with illegal guns. A 14-year-old Americans hitman currently faces three charges of murder.

And the situation is exacerbated by the fact that the more police seize guns, the quicker the gangsters replace them with zip guns, known commonly as “zippies”.

“These home-made guns are extremely dangerous. Despite the rudimentary design, they are fully capable of using 9mm rounds. Unlike actual guns, the barrel does not have any grooves… This means the direction of the shot is completely random, and is responsible for injuring or even killing innocent bystanders,” Brandt said.

Abraham Isaacs, spokesman for the Mitchells Plain Community Police Forum, confirmed that gangs were using children to do their “dirty work”.

“These kids aren’t making the guns themselves and are clearly being supplied by someone… During a meeting in Tafelsig on Wednesday night we could hear shots from a zip gun being fired by youngsters.

“We are trying to track down the supplier or manufacturer who we believe is an adult supplying these weapons,” he said.

Isaacs raised the issue of a culture of gangsterism.

“During a community meeting, one woman identified herself as ‘Mama Hustler’ because her three sons were all members of the gang and she took pride in it. Parents need to set a positive example for their children,” he said.

MEC for Community Safety Dan Plato called for a concerted investigation into the source of all these home-made guns. - Weekend Argus

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