Killing fields for gang­sters

Res­i­dents gripped by con­stant fear of fly­ing bul­lets in Ma­nen­berg

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - KOWTHAR SOLOMONS kowthar.solomons@inl.co.za

DOWNS Road marks the bor­der be­tween Hard Liv­ings and Amer­i­cans gang turf in Ma­nen­berg, and graf­fiti on al­most ev­ery wall in the area tells the story of their bit­ter war, which has taken three lives and left 10 peo­ple in­jured in the past two weeks.

And most of the dead and in­jured were in­no­cent by­standers, ac­cord­ing to Ma­nen­berg Com­mu­nity Po­lice Fo­rum spokesman Kader Jacobs, who said other hot spots in­cluded Thames Walk, Thames Av­enue and Renos­ter Street.

Po­lice have de­ployed a Nyala to patrol the streets, but Jacobs said it was not enough to curb shoot­ings by gang ini­ti­ates keen to prove their loy­alty to their new bosses – one of the main driv­ing forces be­hind the up­swing in vi­o­lence in the area.

Jacobs said the Hard Liv­ings and Amer­i­cans were on a re­cruit­ment drive, andnew re­cruits were re­quired to kill to earn a per­ma­nent spot on the mem­ber­ship roll.

“It doesn’t mat­ter who they shoot, whether it’s a mem­ber of a ri­val gang or just some­one walk­ing down the street. It’s all about the kill,” he said.

Gar­nit Lot­ter­ing, 17, was one of the first to die when he was hit by a stray bul­let.

His sis­ter, Ragiema Isaacs, said the sit­u­a­tion had be­come so bad that res­i­dents wouldn’t step out­side their homes un­less po­lice were in the area.

“It’s like a grave­yard. You won’t even find a cat or dog on the streets. The only thing that waits on the out­side is fly­ing bul­lets.”

And with schools set to go back next week, par­ents are grow­ing more and more con- cerned that their chil­dren will “end up as tar­get prac­tice for the gang­sters”.

Res­i­dents near the Downs Road bor­der said gun bat­tles had be­come rou­tine, de­spite the in­creased po­lice pres­ence.

One woman, who didn’t want to be named but who said her son had been hit in the leg by a stray bul­let two weeks ago, was adamant that par­ents were pro­tect­ing their gang­ster chil­dren from the au­thor­i­ties.

“The par­ents may not be gang­sters, but they side with what­ever gang their child be­longs to. It’s not only the gang­sters who are fight­ing, but the whole com­mu­nity. If you threaten to call the po­lice on one of the gang­sters, you can’t be sur­prised if that gang tar­gets you or your fam­ily.”

She said four shots were fired on the street just 10 min­utes be­fore the ar­rival of the Week­end Ar­gus news team. And she was an­gry that the po­lice had yet to ar­rive.

“They al­ways talk about how im­por­tant it is for the com­mu­nity to give the po­lice in­for­ma­tion, but they never act on it. Th­ese gang­sters are walk­ing through the streets with guns in their hands and yet the po­lice some­how fail to catch them.”

Provin­cial po­lice spokesman Lieu­tenant-Colonel An­dre Traut said po­lice were well aware of the volatil­ity of the sit­u­a­tion in Ma­nen­berg, and he urged res­i­dents to con­tinue re­port­ing in­for­ma­tion. He said po­lice had put mea­sures in place there to curb vi­o­lent crime, but he could not pro­vide de­tails.

“We will not re­lax our ef­forts… and gang­sters should not fear ri­vals, but rather the might of the law,” he warned.

Com­mu­nity Safety MEC Dan Plato wants to see the army de­ployed to the area to help the po­lice sta­bilise the sit­u­a­tion.

“The point is to al­low the po­lice to go into the area and per­form their nor­mal func­tions. They can­not try to deal with ev­ery shoot­ing and gather ev­i­dence in all the cases while still wor­ry­ing about be­ing fired on. We need them to fo­cus on gath­er­ing ev­i­dence and get­ting the gang­sters off the streets.”

Jacobs agreed, say­ing that us­ing the army to choke the sup­ply of drugs and weapons stream­ing into the area would weaken the gangs.

“It is an apartheid- era tac­tic… but it was very ef­fec­tive. The army can iso­late the area and sweep it clean be­fore mov­ing on to the next area. This will sta­bilise it and al­low po­lice to main­tain the peace.”

Mean­while, there’s lit­tle to make the res­i­dents of Downs Road feel bet­ter.

HOT SPOT: Po­lice in a Nyala and an­other patrol ve­hi­cle keep watch on Renos­ter Street in Ma­nen­berg, one of four ar­eas iden­ti­fied by po­lice as bat­tle­grounds for Hard Liv­ings and Amer­i­cans gang­sters fight­ing for turf. Pic­tures: LEON LESTRADE

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