Total lockdown targets Kewtown gang war
Community Safety MEC, police, councillor visit area on fact finding mission
THE GANG war in Kewtown is a “serious, dangerous” issue according to residents and police, but a complete lockdown in the area in the next two weeks will see the start of a strategic war against crime.
The area has been marred by gang violence in the past two months with residents, including young children, experiencing shootings daily.
For the past few years gang activity has increased in the months before the festive season and Kewtown is one of four crime hotspots known for drug and gang activity.
Yesterday the MEC for Community Safety, Lennit Max, police, metro police and community leaders visited the area to discuss the problems with residents, and declared war on drug dealers and gangsters.
Max said yesterday’s visit was a “fact-finding mission”, and he interrogated residents and self-confessed gangsters.
The residents welcomed the visit and gave accounts of the recent violence.
When Max asked them to give police infor mation and names, they said they would be targeted if they gave information, and feared for their lives.
The gangs involved in the current war for control of drug turf in the area are the Americans and the Play Boys, a relatively new gang with members as young as 14.
But one resident, Valda Swartz, said that the Play Boys were not gangsters. “They are young children who were born here and grew up here and just started hanging out together, dressing nice. The big guys, the Americans, came here and wanted them to join their gang and when the Play Boys refused, the war started.
“The Play Boys did not want to become gangsters. The Americans started shooting at them and they retaliated.”
Police have also said the Play Boys were formed after being intimidated by established gangsters.
Another resident, Aziza Hendricks, the aunt of Rameez Mohamed who was shot dead two weeks ago, said the shootings were definitely about drug turf.
“The situation is very bad. Gangs control the area, people can’t control it or say anything because they will become a tar- get. I can feel that more bad things will happen here.”
Three people have been killed in Kewtown since the start of the gang violence about two months ago, as well as one in Bokmakierie. There have also been 11 attempted murders in the two areas, with police saying they were all gangelated.
Mayoral committee member for Safety and Security, councillor JP Smith, was also one of the visitors. He responded to residents’ request for more police patrols, saying: “It’s not so much the issue of more patrols but the scope and extent of the problem. The drug trade is extremely lucrative and I am going to bring Operation Choke into this area as soon as we are done with Tafelsig.”
Operation Choke is a joint police and metro police project which includes daily raids and roadblocks to combat the drug problem.
Smith said they were in Tafelsig and would move to Atlantis which was also seeing an increase in gang related shootings.
“We will do Operation Choke for 30 days in Kewtown. If we find them dealing in these council flats we are throwing them out. We will have vehicle checkpoints and close down all access points. I am going to lock down this area completely for three days with continuous patrols and raids.
“If they are dealing – they are out. I am running low on empathy. There are 300 000 people waiting for a chance to live in a house and we can put them in these flats,” Smith said.
Achmat Davids, a self-confessed Americans member who was shot in the shoulder two weeks ago, was also interrogated by Max. “The Play Boys come down here to shoot. People say they are just fashion boys, but it’s not true. They are laaities. I’ve been a gangster for about five or six years.”
Davids said there were only four Americans in the area as most of the local Americans were in Pollsmoor Prison.
Smith said the metro police were due to receive their first sniffer dog unit in December.
“We will bring them to Kewtown because these dealers are very clever, but the dogs are effective. We will have better luck with finding drugs with the dogs.”
Max ended his visit in Bokmakierie near Hazendal where Safwaan Lippert, 26, was shot eight times while driving on Tuesday evening. He died while relatives were taking him to hospital.
Max said: “I have heard about these killings and the fighting which is why I came on this fact-finding mission. It is clear there is a serious gang and social problem here, but also a lot of hesitation from parents who need to come out and assist police.
“Something needs to be done here and not only with policing but with the justice system. I’ve heard that people are upset with the bail that suspects are getting. It’s a serious problem and the community is unhappy.
“This needs to be addressed with intelligence to empower the police to penetrate the underworld.”
Last week police found an arms hoard in a ceiling in a block of flats. They discovered 24 shotguns and 533 rounds of ammunition including 200 rifle rounds, 16 magnum rounds, 97 special 38 rounds, 48 9mm rounds and 148 9mm silver rounds. The cache was found in Block 26, known as an Americans stronghold, and police said the quantity and type of ammunition found was a sign of “something big” on the way.
HOTSPOT: Americans gang member Achmat Davids shows MEC Lennit Max where he was shot.