Coronavirus Western Cape

SAPS members test positive, stations face lockdown while gang warfare flares up

Metro Police officers at a roadblock in Cape Town, South Africa, Sunday, April 26, 2020. South Africa will begin a phased easing of its strict lockdown measures on May 1, in a continued attempt to contain the increase of coronavirus cases. (Photo by Gallo Images/Nardus Engelbrecht)

A total of 56 police officers in the Western Cape, including one in Ceres, have tested positive for the coronavirus and several police stations have been placed under 48-hours lockdown while gang warfare has flared up again.

On Sunday, 26 April 2020, Cape Town Central became the latest station to report a positive case.

So far, 19 positive cases have been confirmed at the Flying Squad, a total of 12 at the Maitland 10111 call centre, one each at Serial Electronic Crime Investigation (SECI) Unit, Hermanus SAPS, Athlone SAPS, Ceres SAPS, Blue Downs Cluster Office, Bellville South SAPS, Cape Town K-9 Unit, Belhar and Lentegeur SAPS, three at Mitchells Plain FCS, Ravensmead and Cape Town Public Order Policing respectively, and finally, seven at Philippi East SAPS.

A circular forwarded by SAPS management to members has requested them not go near the stations until further notice. This measure was not applicable to Athlone and Hermanus which have since reopened.

The figures have been confirmed by the Police and Prison Civil Rights Union (POPCRU).

Police spokesperson in the region, Novela Potelwa, said a decontamination process has been undertaken at community services centres of the police stations in line with Covid-19, 48-hour lockdown protocols

Ronel Stander, provincial coordinator for the union Solidarity, yesterday said the union is deeply concerned about the large spike in numbers.

“Our concerns are two-fold and in the first instance we are worried about the wellbeing of members and also the effect the closing of these stations and units might have on service delivery,” said Stander.

Criminals might be tempted to exploit the situation and it was imperative that SAPS members protected themselves from the virus.

“It is of vital importance that members clean themselves before they go home to their families and not put their lives unnecessary at risk,” she said.

Popcru, adopting a more cautious approach, said the role of unions had shifted from ensuring that police officers received adequate resources to protect themselves against the virus. The fight to contain the spread had become the main focus, the police union said.

 

“Gangsters in Manenberg are heavily armed and it begs the question how they got their hands on automatic rifles. People know where these guns are stashed, but too afraid to inform the police.”

 

Meanwhile, Potelwa explained that operations at those stations being decontaminated had been relocated.

“Police employees who have been in contact with the infected members have undergone the prescribed screening/testing and are quarantined. The Cape Town Public Order Unit has undergone the same process,” she said.

While police management battles to stem the tide of the virus amongst its members, rival gangs in the notorious Manenberg and Hanover Park exchanged several shots over the weekend.

This in spite of an alleged “truce” between gangs at the start of lockdown.

In Manenberg, the Jesters, Dixies, Clever Kids and Americans were engaged in a running gun battle which claimed the life of one alleged gang member.

The shooting began shortly after 1am on Saturday when shots were fired at the Jesters. The Jesters retaliated and allegedly shot one of the Dixies in the leg.

A video clip taken from the 3rd floor of a flat in Manenberg showed scores of rival gang members hurling bricks at each other. The sounds of gunfire and automatic rifles results in one gang member abandoning his stone-throwing and back-peddling to safety.

Activist Roegshanda Pacsoe said, “Gangsters in Manenberg are heavily armed and it begs the question how they got their hands on automatic rifles. People know where these guns are stashed, but too afraid to inform the police.”

In Hanover Park some young people have used lockdown to form gangs which have then engaged in skirmishes.

According to Ebrahim Abrahams, chairperson of the Hanover Park Community Policing Forum, these fights occurred in full view of law-enforcement agencies while law-abiding citizens are forced to stay indoors.

“The gangs are getting younger in our area and the past week at least five people have been shot. Yesterday afternoon, residents were once again behind closed doors while gang members of the Dollar Kids and Ghettos glared at each from the corner of flats,” he explained.

Police spokesperson Noloyiso Rwexana said police have opened a case of attempted murder in Manenberg after a man in his thirties was shot and wounded in his leg around 11am yesterday morning.

She added that police continued to perform crime prevention to contain the volatile situation. However, no shooting incident was reported to SAPS that occurred in Hanover Park yesterday, she said. DM

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