- Residents of Hanover Park in Cape Town are calling on the government to intervene in violent shootings.
- Three people were also stabbed to death last week.
- The City of Cape Town said its ShotSpotter had since been reactivated in the area.
Residents of Hanover Park in Cape Town say they are fed up with having to take cover in their own homes when gangsters in the area decide to randomly start shooting.
They now want the government to intervene.
The area is predominantly known for its gangsterism, drugs, and murders, with an influx of new gang activity almost every month.
Last weekend, three people were murdered in the area, prompting the police and City of Cape Town law enforcement officials to step up patrols.
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Residents, who spoke to News24 over the weekend, said what was being reported in the media about the area was “nothing compared to what our daily reality is like”.
Sisters Shanieka and Lanisha Grootboom added that living on the Cape Flats was “tough and sometimes not nice”.
“We [are] constantly living in fear, even walking to a nearby shop is very dangerous because you don’t know if you going to be hit in a crossfire or if you need to quickly run behind a tree or stay for hours inside the shop until the shooting ends.
“Sometimes, these gangsters shoot for a solid two hours then stop, then continue again,” Lanisha said.
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For Shanieka, sitting in the living room watching television is “nerve wracking”.
“You can’t even focus on the TV because you don’t know when the shooting will start outside. Sometimes, bullets fly into people’s homes, and we must lay on the floor looking at each other while holding our eyes close (sic).
“It’s really not nice and I just wish the government can do something about these shootings because it’s sad how we are living.”
Resident Anwar Abrahams welcomed the death of a 40-year-old man who was murdered two weeks ago.
He killed my son in cold blood five years ago so when I got the message to say they killed him, I went to the scene to make sure it was him. I am at peace, now only, knowing he is dead because he never went to jail, but would walk every time [past] me not looking at me because he knows what he did to my family.
Another resident, Yasmine Josie, added that she believed if government officials spent a week in the area, they would understand “this is not a just-for-now problem”.
“It’s like we’re living in hell. People are dying daily, and youngsters are idolising the gangsters because there’s quick money to be made. We’re losing our children to gangsterism and drugs and it’s sad,” she said.
“Most of my friends have lost their children to a life of crime. Government must come see what our people are dealing with. Mothers have to watch their sons deteriorating due to the drugs they are hooked on when they join these gangs, it’s heart-breaking,” Josie added.
Gangs offer ‘opportunity’
Dr Guy Lamb, who is a Crime research expert at Stellenbosch University, told News24 that young people joined gangs for several reasons, which included living in poor communities and wanting a sense of belonging or protection while living in an area that was considered dangerous.
“Gangs offer an opportunity to make money, whereas opportunities are quite limited in poorer areas for young people.
“For youngsters looking to get ‘rich quick’, many gangsters will then recruit them, especially minors, for selling or transportation of drugs because the consequences of being caught with drugs as a young person under 18 years old are less severe [than] for someone who is an adult,” said Lamb.
The Community Policing Forum (CPF) said more than 20 gangs were currently operating in the area, with each gang recruiting children as young as eight to be a part of “the family”.
“Living in Hanover Park is like living in a country that has war, you can expect shootings any time of the day, and there are many times we would hear about 100 shots fired within a day.
“It’s inhumane to live like this, our people are living in fear, and the stress we need to constantly live through about worrying if children or loved ones will come back home alive is not nice,” CPF spokesperson Kashiefa Mohammed said.
String of murders
“It’s like living in a prison, one is even too scared to stand outside the front door and drink coffee.”
Since the start of 2023, News24 reported on five murders in the area, with several attempted murder cases being investigated by the police.
No arrests have been made.
In the latest incident, Western Cape police spokesperson, Warrant Officer Joseph Swartbooi, said Philippi police attended to a complaint on Friday where someone had been shot.
“The victim was transported to a nearby hospital for medical treatment. The motive for the attack is gang-related and the unknown suspects fled the scene and are yet to be arrested. Philippi police are investigating a case of attempted murder,” Swartbooi added.
According to the CPF, it had recorded 17 murders and 29 attempted murders in the area since October last year.
These numbers grow every single day, some days it’s impossible to keep track of how many people are dying at the hands of gangsters because there is just too much and some of these attempted murder cases don’t even get registered because the victims fear the gangs will find out and come finish what they started.
In a bid to bring calm to the area, the mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, said the City had deployed a contingent of LEAP officers to the area.
He added additional resources were made available to areas that experienced a surge in crime to increase the level of visible policing.
“The City has finalised a new contract for the gunshot detection technology and the system is once again live in Hanover Park.
“The ShotSpotter system has been integrated with the City’s existing Emergency Police Incident Control system, for more efficient dispatching and response to gunshot alerts,” Smith said.
According to him, in one of the latest successes, metro police officers arrested a suspect and recovered a 9mm firearm and 30 rounds of ammunition in Hanover Park on Friday.
“Officers responded to a ShotSpotter alert, and on arrival in the area, bystanders assisted with a description of the suspect who was tracked down and apprehended just a few minutes later.
“This incident brings the total arrests due to ShotSpotter since December to at least five, with four firearms recovered,” Smith added.
The CPF, however, lambasted the ShotSpotter initiative, saying it “simply doesn’t work”.
Crime activist Yaseen Johaar said:
These gangsters are outsmarting the ShotSpotter and CCTV cameras. They have already figured out how to manipulate the equipment and police.
“If this equipment worked then we wouldn’t be having these continued shootings and murders almost every week.”
Mohammed said to claim back the community from gangs, residents needed to stop covering up for their family members who they knew were doing wrong.
“Government needs to take an interest in the Cape Flats, we need the people’s voices to be heard, allow the people on the ground to direct the way.
“Hanover Park was once great to live in and it can go back to that, but we need officials to help and intervene and stop letting these gangsters kill our innocent people,” Mohammed said.