Police minister visits Gugulethu to address increasing gang problem

The Gugulethu civic hall was packed to capacity for the meeting with police minister Nathi Mthethwa. Photo by Mary-Anne Gontsana

Mary-Anne Gontsana

23 May 2012

Tension and frustration ran high yesterday, when hundreds of Gugulethu residents packed the township’s Civic Hall to vent at Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa about the gangster problem.

With many of them standing, the hall was packed to capacity. A heavy police presence could be witnessed with people entering the premises being searched at the gate.

Mthethwa visited the township following the recent spike of gang activity in Gugulethu. According to Luvuyo Zondani, ward 38 councillor, the spike in gang violence has already claimed the life of a parent and patroller and more than 20 children aged between 14 and 18 years. “The community is angry, confused and it needs guidance. Enough is enough, we cannot tolerate the right to our safety being taken away by gangsters,” he said to a noisy hall of residents agreeing with him.

Before Mthethwa took to the podium, residents were given a chance to pose questions and make comments which he would reply to.

One upset resident said it had become difficult for children to attend school because of gangsters. “Please help us. Schools are rated no crime but it is where it happens the most. Kids are being stabbed in school,” she said.

Another said they could not leave their houses at night in fear of the gangs because people from ward 34 didn’t want people from ward 38 and 42 to come to their area.

After hearing the grievances, Mthethwa said what disturbed him the most about the whole thing was that it involved teenagers who were supposed to be at school.

“We need to look at this and understand why it is that these kids are doing this. It is all good and well for us to leave the parent to reprimand their child and intervene in their wrongdoing, but we should work together as a community and adopt the, ‘my child is your child’ mentality,” said Mthethwa.

Even though most of the complaints by the community were about the lack of work done by the Gugulethu police in keeping the township safe and them not responding to reports of crimes, Mthethwa urged the community to work hand in hand with police to fight the gangsterism.

Mbongeni Lunda a resident, who is part of the committee set up to help devise ways to stop the gang activity in the township, said the patroller, Rice Sithole was killed in NY 50.

“The incident happened about a week ago on a Saturday night. The patrollers were doing their rounds and some of the boys had spotted them. They came from behind the group of patrollers with bricks and stones. One of the patrollers was stoned to death,” said Lunda.

Lunda said it had emerged in one of their meetings that one of the reasons these boys were fighting each other was because the boys from the NY 50s called the boys from the Zones, names because they came from the Eastern Cape.

“The boys complain that the others are referring to them as iibharu,” he said. Ibharu is a person who is considered to be backward. The name is taken from the slang word baar, which means uncivilised.

Provincial police commissioner Arno Lamoer said, “The major issue is the lack of response in certain areas in Gugulethu. Police are there to serve the community and there is no reason for refusal. It is unacceptable for police not to respond.”

Lamoer said they would hold another meeting with the community next week to work on a plan on how the community together with the police would stop the gangs from terrorising the community.