Gangsterism out of hand in Khayelitsha

Learners gathered on Friday afternoon at the corner of Pama Road before a fight broke out in K-Block. An 18-year-old Bulumko High School learner was stabbed to death in the incident. Photo by Nokubonga Yawa.

Mary-Anne Gontsana

1 August 2012

Between Premier Helen Zille calling for the deployment of an army and some Cape Town gangs deciding to end the violence, Khayelitsha is singing a different tune with teenage gangsters taking the violence to a new level.

These high school learners have made Khayelitsha their war zone, with one Grade 9 learner being killed and another landing in hospital with serious injuries.

On Sunday night, about 50 teenage gangsters armed with knives and pangas entered Green Point in Khayelitsha and started attacking anyone in sight.

A Green Point resident who wanted to remain anonymous said there were more than 50 of them as a whole, but they split up to make sure that if someone planned on running away, they would spot them.

“It’s getting out of hand now and someone has already died. I mean they are attacking everyone, they don’t care if you are involved in any gangs. I was using a train but now I have stopped because I had to get off at Site B and it is dangerous for me there because I come from their enemy camp, Green Point. I use a taxi now,” he explained.

He admits that he is scared because he lives alone and gangsters had once before come to his house to look for his younger brothers.

“Three of my brothers are also involved in this gang thing, so they had to leave school and I had to send them away for their own safety, I now live alone because of this ,” he explained.

Before the Sunday incident, a similar one occurred on Friday afternoon involving three teenagers, with one dressed in a school uniform with a knife in hand.

Police spokesman, Andre Traut confirmed that police were called out to a youth fight on Friday afternoon in Khayelitsha’s K-Block.

“They found the body of 18-year-old Azola Jakasi. He had been stabbed to death. Police immediately commenced with their investigation into the incident and managed to detain eight youths on charges of attempted murder and murder and seven youths on charges of carrying dangerous weapons.

“Police also arrested two suspects aged 19 and 21 years of age on murder charges. The 15 youths that were detained for questioning regarding the incident were released by police and court personnel on Sunday. The other two suspects remained in detention under a murder charge. They will appear in the Khayelitsha Magistrates Court,” said Traut.

Jakasi was in Grade 9 at Bulumko High School. No arrests have been made in response to the Sunday night incident. A 15-year-old grade 9 learner at Thembelihle High School, who was attacked, is currently in hospital with serious injuries.

Traut urged the community to assist the police. He said that the police found that parents did not discipline their children when they got involved fights, but rather questioned authorities when their children got arrested.

Social Justice Coalition’s coordinator, Gavin Silber, said the crime situation in Khayelitsha was very concerning and it was getting worse.

“There is a clear trend of lawlessness in Khayelitsha. Criminals feel they can act with impunity, and residents live in fear. In the last few months we see a surge in was vigilantism. Now it is gang violence. In this case, action needs to be taken not only by SAPS, but also by the Provincial Departments of Community Safety and Education and the metro police. An immediate plan is needed to put an end to this violence.

“Gang violence has been going on for months, but has intensified recently. It has had a significant impact on the community. There is tremendous fear and children are not going to school. Obviously something needs to be done to solve this problem but a long term solution includes the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into crime in Khayelitsha to address the systemic problems” said Silber.

Bronagh Casey, spokesperson for provincial education MEC Donald Grant, said the department was very concerned about the rise in gang-violence in certain areas of Khayelitsha.

“While this is a broader societal issue affecting children outside schools, we are still worried that it has negative effects on schooling and the future of the children involved. Please note that the incidents are happening outside of school grounds,” said Casey.

She said the department was currently monitoring the situation very closely and that there was concern that the violence was impacting on learner attendance, however, they were also concerned for the safety of the learners travelling to and from school.

A Bulumko High School teacher who did not want to be named, said many pupils were absent from school on Monday.

“I do not believe that this is gangsterism. I think that these are sectional fights. These kids do not get along with other kids from different areas. Some are now not attending school, while others choose to go to school and carry weapons,” he said.

He said these incidents had an emotional impact on learners and teachers as well as the social atmosphere. He added that they had security guards at the school gate and police were on standby should anything happen.

Zak Mbhele spokesman for Premier Helen Zille said Khayelitsha was not one of the areas included for army deployment.

“The only areas to which Premier Zille has called for the army to be deployed are Hanover Park and Lavender Hill. This is due to the spike in gang violence over the last three to four months and the nature of the violence (open-air shootouts in which innocent bystanders have been killed) in these areas which could most easily be reduced by army street patrols, as has been demonstrated in the past when the army was previously deployed to suburbs in the Cape Flats.

“The gang situation in Khayelitsha, as in other parts of Cape Town with a strong gang presence, is symptomatic of deeper social and economic challenges ranging from absent fathers to limited economic and recreational opportunities for youth. The Western Cape Government is only able directly to support community policing forums and neighbourhood watches and it has no operational control or management authority over South African Police Service (SAPS). Residents also need to play their part by reporting known gang members and giving information to police that can help with their investigations. This is what we mean by a “whole-of-society” approach to increasing public security, where safety is everyone’s responsibility,” explained Mbhele.

Asked about the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into Khayelitsha SAPS, Mbhele said Zille had agreed to a deadline extension for the investigation by the office of the National Police Commissioner.