To­tal lock­down tar­gets Kew­town gang war

Com­mu­nity Safety MEC, po­lice, coun­cil­lor visit area on fact find­ing mis­sion

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - ZARA NI­CHOL­SON

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.

PIC­TURE: AYANDA NDAMANE

HOTSPOT: Amer­i­cans gang mem­ber Ach­mat Davids shows MEC Len­nit Max where he was shot.

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