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Beneath politicking — ‘31 murders’ in Western Cape over a day ahead of SA’s biggest elections

Beneath politicking — ‘31 murders’ in Western Cape over a day ahead of SA’s biggest elections
In a weekend marred by tragedy, 31 lives were lost in the gangsterism capital of South Africa's Western Cape, with a police officer among the victims, shedding light on the ongoing surge in violence that authorities are struggling to contain.(Image: iStock)

The number of murders in the Western Cape over a day recently just about exceeds the number of years South Africa has been a democracy.

Between Saturday and Sunday, on the weekend leading up to democratic South Africa’s biggest elections, 31 people were murdered in the country’s gangsterism capital, the Western Cape.

Daily Maverick understands that figures, compiled within the South African Police Service (SAPS) and which have not been officially released, show this.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘94 murders in 3 days’ — Western Cape ‘war zone’ killings exceed European country’s annual fatal shootings

It is understood the various murders — including shootings and stabbings — are not interlinked and are not all gang-related.

There have recently been spikes in killings in the Western Cape, with another mass shooting reported a few weeks ago.

Last month, asked about another set of Western Cape crime figures that were not officially released, provincial police spokesperson Colonel Andrè Traut said that statistics were “not disclosed ahead of the official quarterly release by the Police Minister”.

The recent statistics Daily Maverick has been informed of, that cover 24 hours from 25 to 26 May 2024, therefore cannot be officially confirmed.

This makes it difficult to gauge how violence is fluctuating on a regular basis.

Policeman fatally shot

In one of the incidents that played out between Saturday and Sunday morning, a police officer was killed.

On Tuesday, 28 May, Traut confirmed to Daily Maverick that detectives attached to the Hawks were investigating what led to the murder of the detective sergeant in the Cape Town suburb of Delft.

Traut did not provide the 44-year-old officer’s name, but it was reported on social media as Nkosinathi Wellem.

Traut said that on Saturday, 25 May, the officer was “shot and killed at around 21.45 outside his residence… by unknown suspects.”

Wellem, according to Traut, had been “stationed at the Philippi East police station [and] was off duty at the time of the incident.”

In terms of cracking down on crime, police officers in the Western Cape have been making arrests.

‘Sporadic shootings’ and arrests

Police spokesperson Sergeant Wesley Twigg said that there had been “sporadic shooting incidents” in the suburb of Heinz Park on Monday, 27 May.

As a result, Anti-Gang Unit officers were deployed there “to restore calm and to maintain law and order through high-density patrols and targeted crime combatting operations.”

Twigg said officers had also responded to a shooting complaint.

“Upon arrival on the scene, community members alerted them on the whereabouts of the alleged suspects who fled the scene,” he said.

An 18-year-old suspect was found at a premises with “a 357 revolver with ammunition.”

Twigg said two other suspects, one with a .32 revolver and the other possibly linked to a premises where a 9mm pistol and ammunition were discovered, were taken into custody.

More cops vs more murders

In the runup to the elections on Wednesday, politicians have addressed tackling crime.

While the Western Cape’s murder toll was developing further after it reached a total of 31 over 24 hours, President Cyril Ramaphosa referenced crime fighting in a speech at the weekend.

“We have increased the number of police on the street by 20,000 over the last two years and established specialised task teams in the police to tackle illegal mining, cable theft, cash-in-transit heists, gangsterism and other economic crimes,” he said.

“This work is producing results. Arrests are being made. Perpetrators are being sent to jail. And in many areas, the incidence of such crimes is being reduced.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Ramaphosa criticised for ‘misuse of resources’ in pre-election address

The Western Cape, though, seems to stand out with killings surging over certain days.

In February, when delivering a batch of official crime statistics, Police Minister Bheki Cele had even remarked: “It is also concerning that of the 268 gang-related murders, 250 of these murders were reported in the Western Cape.”

The DA, in reaction to the statistics released in February, issued a statement saying: “The simple reality is that the Western Cape needs the mandate and the resources to totally overhaul policing in the province…

“The time has come for national government to get out of the way of progress.”

schoolgirl shooting, murders

A schoolgirl died after being struck by a bullet during a gang shooting in the Cape Town suburb of Athlone. (Photo: Supplied)

Read more in Daily Maverick: Schoolgirl killed, cop murdered in wild week of Western Cape shootings

It therefore used the situation to highlight an idea relating to the devolution of policing powers, which the ANC holds, to the DA-run provincial government.

Daily Maverick previously reported that the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) in the province had flagged gang rivalry and violence as among the issues that needed monitoring ahead of, and on, voting day.

Read more in Daily Maverick: 2024 election hub

Security plans

A resident from a Cape Town gang hotspot, who spoke to Daily Maverick anonymously for safety reasons, had also previously said they were “extremely worried” about politics stoking tensions between rival gangs.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘Ears to the ground’ will help monitor possible WC gang violence on election day – IEC

Last month the Justice, Crime Prevention, and Security Cluster Ministers outlined various plans to try and ensure safety over the election period.

“[There is] a fit-for-purpose deployment plan that will deal with any potential threats of crime and violence in and around voting stations and national and provincial results centres,” a statement on said.

“We have also put measures in place to protect all public facilities that will be used for voting, national key points and other essential infrastructure that might be targeted by criminal elements.”

Beneath government statements and reassurances about tackling criminality, and politicking about the crime, violence persists in the Western Cape where lives are being lost. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Benevolence ZA says:

    So Daily Maverick obtains unofficial murder stats from unknown sources on the eve of election. You behave like Daily Sun but then plead for funding. People like me will stop paying for exactly this nonsense. You want to be a tabloid go ahead but don’t expect our contributions.

    • jcdville stormers says:

      Go spread your benevolence elsewhere,enough of us who are satisfied with the article

      • P C Hem says:

        There is at least one person that is known to be satisfied with the article. It is,however, impossible to know the opinion of others, unless they leave a comment her, and even then they may change their mind tomorrow.

  • Denise Smit says:

    Rumours become facts in article written on whispers by unknown sources. To reflect negatively on DA Western Cape led government

  • Lindy Gaye says:

    Violence persists everywhere dear Caryn – your focus is on gangs in the Western Cape – how about Daily Maverick getting some in depth journalism on other violence invested areas in our country – LOTS to choose from.

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