South Africa

Khayelitsha’s unbearable gang problem: residents losing patience

By GroundUp 27 August 2013

Residents in Khayelitsha are complaining about the rise of gangsterism in the area, and that the police are not doing enough to eliminate the problem. By Pharie Sefali for GROUNDUP.

Most of the offenders in Khayelitsha are high school learners from the age of 14 and up. Some of them dropped out of school because of their involvement in gangs and drugs. Some gang attacks happen right inside schools, causing chaos on the grounds.

A member of the Vura gang, known as Maizo, says that fights are becoming intense in Khayelitsha. In the past few weeks, members from both gangs, Vato and Vura, have killed each other.

Gang members are seeking revenge for the killings by starting fights with and robbing people that might be related to their enemies.

“We are not going to stop until we are satisfied with the number of deaths,” said Maizo.

On Saturday 17 August, a GroundUp journalist witnessed a gang fight in Khayelitsha in the Site C area. Vato and Vura were attacking each other. They used stones, knives and sharp weapons.

The gangs were fighting during the day. Cars and pedestrians could not safely pass Lansdowne Road because stones were being thrown. An old woman, who was passing by, was injured when hit by a brick.

On 14 August, a teenager from Site B almost lost his life when he was stabbed in the head during a gang fight with boys from the Green Point area in Khayelitsha.

A Social Justice Coalition (SJC) member and resident who witnessed the fight said: “There were about 18 from each group. They started by throwing stones at each other. Then out of the blue, a young boy was stabbed from behind in the head by a member of the rival gang.”

“The victim was dragged away to show the others what had been done. It was at this point that we contacted the police. We told them what was happening and that someone had been stabbed, but the police never came.

“My neighbour then took the injured boy to hospital. He has since returned to the community, but has difficulty walking and speaking.

“These fights are a frequent thing, and happen every single day, but what is worrying now is that they are also injuring other people who have nothing to do with the gangs.”

Sinazo Mkhoto from Ndlovini in Khayelitsha admits that her community has taken matters into their own hands for some time already. She said that when a criminal commits a crime in their area, he is beaten to death. If not, they have ways of making sure he never engages in criminal activity again.

“If the offender is not dead, we cut off a certain part of the body, then we call the police and leave him suffering. We know that the police will arrive after an hour, if they arrive at all,” said Mkhonto.

Colonel Kinana from SAPS said that the community must understand that taking the law into their own hands is a criminal offence. People have the responsibility to report crime to the police.

Phadiela Cooper, the principal at COSAT High School, says her school is affected by gangsterism.

“Our students are targeted by gang members on their way to and from schools. They are robbed and assaulted. Many of them have to pass through an area in which they don’t reside, and are then targeted. Some students miss school as they fear for their safety,” she said.

The principal is appealing to the police to increase their patrols at schools, before school, and at dismissal time.

Stix, a gang member from Vura, said that he would never get arrested because he has ways of dodging the police. He also said that some of their members are friends of the police and have ways of communicating with them.

Asked to comment, Kinana said, “Kindly be advised that the SAPS has always warned those in its ranks associated with any criminal activities in the province. In the same breath, it would be appreciated if such information can be provided to the police for investigation.”

Stix says he was expelled from school because he stabbed another learner.

“I wake up every morning to go to a nearby field and wait for learners as they go to school. Then I rob them. I use what I get to buy drugs.” DM

Photo: Weapons confiscated from young teenage gangsters in Khayelitsha. Photo by Mary-Anne Gontsana.

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