At least four people were killed in one week, a fortnight ago, from several gang-related shootings in the area in western Joburg. All of them were shot at close range in the escalating drugs turf war.
A police officer with informants within gangs in Westbury confirmed to The Star that the Fast Guns gang recently hired five shooters from their Cape Town associates to eliminate Majimbos and Varados gang members in the area. The Fast Guns leader, known only as Bahad, also lives in Westbury.
The three gangs “own” small portions of Westbury and take out rivals who stray into their self-proclaimed turf to sell drugs. Community members and an undercover police officer said greed and escalating drug abuse in the area had intensified the turf war.
“The Majimbos and Varados druglord, known as Finch, wants to take over the entire Westbury area and create a franchise to peddle drugs. To achieve this he needs to get rid of his competitors because the area is not big enough for all of them to prosper,” said the officer.
He added that three of the four people killed were eliminated by one hitman, who is known to the police and the community.
Sophiatown police spokesperson Warrant Officer Jerbes de Bruyn was cagey: “Each case that gets reported to the police is investigated against its own dynamics. Should a trend be picked up, that becomes an operational aspect, which we are not at liberty to comment on,” he said.
“Several incidents have been reported. Only the minister of police can give official crime statistics, which are now released on a quarterly basis,” added De Bruyn. He said police were using intelligence-driven operations to nab perpetrators.
However, according to our police source, at least 10 gang-related murders occur every month in Westbury.
“These are no random killings It’s difficult to solve the cases because police officers are also in the pockets of gang leaders. They frequent the flats opposite the station where some of these dealers live. Police only go there to collect money, and some of them have since been transferred to other stations, but the problem still persists,” said the officer.
De Bruyn, however, said these were untested allegations.
The scourge of gang-related crimes has left the community living in fear. Residents are scared to be interviewed about the extent of the drug trade and the random gang-related hits. The Star tracked down some of the grieving families, but they refused to talk, fearing for their lives - and the wrath of gangsters after a newspaper story.
Relatives of Tyrone Willett, 37, who was gunned down in December 2016, were still traumatised at losing a family member who was not even affiliated to gangs. The shooting happened during Christmas celebrations held at a park where the children from the community were to receive gifts from Santa Claus.
“As Father Christmas was walking with hundreds of children down Steytler Road, a car pulled near them and started shooting. Father Christmas also had to take cover as children and their parents ran in various directions. The car drove to the next street where its occupants shot Tyrone (Willett) twice in the head. They also shot a disabled boy in the leg and another man in the head, but he survived,” said the relative. The culprits were never arrested.
DA councillor Amod Chahracan said gangsterism had existed in Westbury since the 1950s, when the area was still known as the Western Native Township and later Western Coloured Township, but violence was minimal.
He said gangsterism had emanated from two rival soccer teams, and their fans created opposing gangs known as The Spaldings, Fast Guns and The Vultures.
“It was territorial. They fought among themselves with pangas and knives and they never harmed members of the community. Girls from the Spaldings area weren’t allowed to date boys from the Fast Guns location. It was stupid but that’s how it was,” said Chahracan.
Activities took a more sinister turn in the early 1990s when drugs, money and guns got involved. In the early 2000s, religious leaders convened a peace treaty, which lasted until around 2015.
“This entire neighbourhood has become a crime spot. Things have got out of hand in the past two years. We have daily shootings and drive-by shootings being carried out by people we don’t know. Some community members have information but they are scared to talk because we live in close proximity to these thugs,” said Chahracan.