‘Where are the gang­sters? I would like to meet them’

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - News -

Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa emerged from a BMW SUV with his full se­cu­rity en­tourage and stepped onto the trash­laden‚ gang-ruled streets of Cape Town’s Hanover Park.

Crowds of peo­ple‚ young and old‚ gath­ered to see the pres­i­dent. Hun­dreds of po­lice of­fi­cers sur­rounded the area‚ with army snipers on rooftops.

“Where are the gang­sters?” asked the pres­i­dent. “I want to meet them. I want to take them on‚” he said with a laugh. The crowds cheered. Ramaphosa was in Hanover Park on Fri­day morn­ing to meet the res­i­dents of the dan­ger­ous sub­urb and to an­nounce his gang po­lice task force ini­tia­tive.

Hanover Park is a part of the Philippi po­lice precinct. Crime statis­tics show that the num­ber of mur­ders in the precinct rose from 19 in 2009‚ to 35 in 2012‚ to 74 in 2015‚ to 87 in 2018 (source: Crimes­tatssa).

The pres­i­dent walked about the streets of Hanover Park to shake hands‚ kiss ba­bies and make his stance against gang vi­o­lence clear.

“We are very happy to be here among you‚” he said.

“And we are happy to si­lence the gangs. Our pres­ence here shows the gangs that we are not afraid of them and we are coming af­ter them.”

“We must give jobs!” yelled an older Hanover Park woman‚ who was no more 1.5m from the pres­i­dent.

“We must give jobs to the gang­sters! It’s not all about the vi­o­lence!”

The pres­i­dent led a chant with the crowd: “Down with the gang­sters! Phansi!”

He con­tin­ued: “Gang­sters do not be­long among our peo­ple.”

The same woman replied to the pres­i­dent: “Your po­lit­i­cal party does noth­ing for us!”

The woman’s son is a gang­ster‚ and she was adamant that putting the gangs in jail would do noth­ing to change the neigh­bour­hood.

“We need hous­ing,” she said. “Ev­ery neigh­bour­hood around here got gov­ern­ment houses ex­cept us. We need jobs.

“My son is a gang­ster and he is at home do­ing noth­ing.”

The pres­i­dent con­tin­ued his walk­a­bout‚ as­sur­ing peo­ple the task force would find the gang­sters and put them in jail.

A group of young men watched him from 3m away and laughed.

“We like the pres­i­dent‚” one of the men said.

“There is peace. No shoot­ing to­day. He should come ev­ery week. Usu­ally there’s killing‚ ev­ery day. Not to­day.”

The men were all gang mem­bers. They found the pres­i­dent’s plan amus­ing.

“If they send us to jail, we will just leave and come back. That’s what will hap­pen,” one of them said.

Pho­to­graph: MIKE HUTCH­INGS

PRIME AT­TRAC­TION: Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa speaks dur­ing a visit to crime-rid­den Hanover Park town­ship to launch a new anti-gang unit in Cape Town on Fri­day

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