Why gangsters are getting away with murder
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Cape Town – Cape Flats activist Roegshanda Pascoe believes the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA) is not being used effectively to help curb the high incidence of gang-related shootings the past few months.
Over the Easter weekend, for example, an 8-year-old boy was shot in the head by a stray bullet – yet another innocent victim of gang rivalry. More than 500 murders were reported in the Western Cape in the first nine weeks of the year.
“The entire Cape Flats is under gang warfare and it’s mostly over drug turf. The sadness is, yes, police are trying, but where the state has failed with regards to safety and security is that they know who the drug merchants are. Why are they not profiling these guys and bringing them to book?’’ Pascoe told the Cape Times.
“Under POCA gang leaders can be charged for the crimes of their soldiers because they give the orders. A soldier cannot get a gun without the permission of the leader, so the leader must take responsibility.”
According to top police detective Major-General Jeremy Vearey, however, identifying a “gangster’’ and securing a conviction is no easy matter, even if they have a gang tattoo emblazoned on their body.
Last week, SAPS, the Anti-Gang Unit, City Law Enforcement and the Department of Community Safety were summoned to the Western Cape legislature's community safety committee to explain what was being done to curb the surge in gang violence.
POCA dealt specifically with what constituted a gang member, and judges relied on certain requirements when deciding on a conviction and sentence, Vearey told the committee, News24 reported.
Two of the requirements could possibly lead to a loss of life for the gangster himself or his immediate family: such as admitting to criminal gang membership and being identified as a gangster by a parent or guardian. Securing the conviction of a gangster often necessitates painstaking, long-term intelligence gathering by the police.
"In all cases dealt with so far in the Western Cape, we must first prove the gang we are bringing in is a criminal gang. It is not enough to say it is a gang,’’ Vearey told the committee.
"There is an alternate governance and economy that the gangs are providing those communities... Most of the time when we get there (scene of the crime), nobody wants to talk, and they never talk."