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