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Hillview - Residents of Hillview have called on the Western Cape government to launch a commission of inquiry into gang and drug-related killings in the area as the death toll over the past eight months soars close to 60.

They have also demanded a visible police presence and police action to keep people safe in what they described as a “gang war zone”. Residents said gangsters walked around brazenly with guns in view of a local police base camp.

Despondent residents in ward 67, which is a DA stronghold, are now moving to “reclaim” the streets and have set up a neighbourhood watch in a local play park formerly used by warring gangsters.

“We want a commission of inquiry into the killings. Innocent lives have been lost. The authorities do not want to take responsibility, but we feel that an inquiry will shed light on these senseless killings and see those implicated held accountable,” said community worker Shireen Moolman.

She said that between November and December last year, about 20 people were killed in a “drug turf” war between members of a gang called the Junky Funky Kids and a breakaway group.

“We approached our ward councillor for help. We drew up petitions and even met with MEC for Community Safety Dan Plato in February to express our concerns. If the authorities had acted early on, some of the killings could have been prevented,” said Moolman.

She added that the gangs were well armed and called for an investigation to expose who was supplying them with guns and why.

Plato confirmed that other communities in Lavender Hill and Seawinds had made a similar call during a meeting with government representatives on Friday.

But he denied that nothing had been done, saying a police base camp had been set up to deal with the violence in Lavender Hill. But he said residents had questioned its effectiveness .

“I met with the leaders of residents in Lavender Hill on Friday and they told me the police seem to be scared of the gangsters who walk past the base carrying guns brazenly.

“They asked what the purpose is of having the police there if they are not able to control the violence. Similar base camps set up in areas such as Philippi and Ravensmead have reduced crime. I have spoken to the head of the police and we agreed to urgently address it,” Plato said.

There are three police stations servicing the area - Muizenberg, Steenberg and the base camp. But residents said the police service could not handle the situation.

“They told us their priority was to safeguard a piece of land from invasion. My son was shot at in January, but the bullet just grazed his arm. It took an hour for the police to come. The community has now resorted to taking those shot to hospitals themselves,” said Hillview resident, Luchelle Parrish.

Other residents spoke of bodies left lying on the road for close to six hours while Muizenberg and Steenberg police squabbled over whose responsibility it was to attend to the crime scene and lack of resources.

They also accused the police of using their resources to arrest residents with small amounts of dagga or raiding spaza shops run by foreigners, instead of prioritising the loss of lives.

The residents said that when there were evictions in Steenberg a few months ago, almost 20 police vehicles were on the scene. On the same day, seven people were killed in the area.

Gang and drug-related killings on the Cape Flats have been going on for more than 70 years, with no sign of being brought under control.

This week alone, more than five deaths were recorded by the Hillview community. One person was allegedly shot 32 times. Residents said most of those killed were “innocent victims”, including teenagers, a mentally ill man and a man who survived by collecting scrap metal.

In the play park, now known as Peace Park, a banner declaring “Taking Our Community Back” flew alongside red ribbons symbolising each life lost in the gang war.

“The killings have brought the community together to take action. Families are torn apart and some are losing members one after another.

“Enough is enough. One life lost is too many. Our lives and our children’s lives do matter,” said Ayusha November.

The residents said there had been no prosecutions and that “one mother sees her son’s killer passing by her house every day, but she is scared to tell the police even though her son told her who shot him”.

The violence has also affected schooling and prevented people from going to work.

Lereesha Chowglay said: “I fear losing the scholarship that I received for my studies in shipping because I have to attend classes and when there is shooting in the early hours of the morning we cannot leave our houses.”

She said no trauma counselling was available and it was left to the community to counsel the children.

Residents said they were receiving support from the EFF and that the community should not be left on its own to handle the crisis.

Police said they could not release statistics on the number of killings as a moratorium was in place.

“The statistics for prosecutions have been requested from Steenberg police and will in all probability not be available for release before Monday,” said police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Andrè Traut.

Traut said allegations of poor reaction times and police complicity in crime would be best addressed if formal complaints were lodged with police management or the Independent Police Investigative Directorate.

There would be no comment on “unsubstantiated allegations made by anonymous sources” before an investigation into the matter had been completed, he added.

“Kindly encourage your sources to approach with the information on which they base their allegations,” Traut added.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane’s call for the army to be deployed to the Cape Flats to handle the crime has been rejected by some activists.

The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) said no government striving for justice and equality would ask for the army to be deployed in townships.

“Of course, the DA and its leaders lack an understanding of the lasting effects of colonialism and apartheid,” SJC general secretary Axolile Notywala said.

Referring to the 1980s when soldiers had been deployed to townships to suppress the fight for freedom, Notywala said the memories of the violence wrought on black informal settlements by the army still remained.

“We will not allow our communities to be militarised because government has failed us.

“So, please, don’t send the army in. Instead, we’d like effective, accountable and transparent government that genuinely governs with the interests of all, but particularly poor, black people, in mind,” he said.

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