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Shootings on Cape Flats claim 14 lives in less than a week

A series of shootings on the Cape Flats has led to additional law enforcement officers being sent to crime-riddled areas in Cape Town. 

In less than a week 14 people, including two on-duty police officers, were killed, and 10 people were seriously injured.

On Thursday, 25 February, two teenagers were shot dead and three sustained serious injuries in Beacon Valley, Mitchells Plain. And on Saturday four men between the ages of 30 and 64 were killed, also in Mitchells Plain. 

Two police officers were shot and killed in Kraaifontein in the early hours of Sunday morning. Their firearms were stolen. The same morning saw two men killed and two seriously injured in Thubelisha, Delft. 

The shootings prompted Western Cape Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz on Sunday to expedite “the rollout of additional law enforcement through the establishment of area based teams in communities most affected by violent crime”. 

On the same day the mayoral committee member for community safety and security, JP Smith, asked that Law Enforcement Advancement Plan officers “be temporarily redeployed from each of the five hotspot locations to Mitchells Plain to respond to the spree of gang violence taking place”. Thirty officers were sent immediately and 20 more on Monday, 1 March. 

Two brothers, aged 17 and 19, were shot dead in Khayelitsha on Sunday afternoon. 

On Monday evening an ongoing drug turf war in Manenberg resulted in the death of the alleged Clever Kids gang leader and drug dealer, Sietjie Boy. His father and brother were injured. 

In his response to this recent spate of murders, the newly appointed Western Cape acting provincial commissioner, Major General Thembisile Patekile, said his assessment “of crime patterns within the province has observed with concern the alarmingly high levels of serious violent crimes that are driven by the proliferation of illegal firearms”. 

Brigadier Novela Potelwa, the Western Cape police spokesperson, said 30 illegal firearms had been seized in the past week in the province. 

The Hawks’ national priority violent crimes team together with the Kraaifontein police arrested one suspect in Mandela Park, Khayelitsha, for the murder of the police officers killed on Sunday morning. 

No arrests for the other murders have been made.

Ab Isaacs, chairperson of the Cape Flats Safety Forum, said he was not sure who initiated the shootings because the police are still investigating. But, he added, “It may escalate into more shootings.” 

Isaacs calls the shootings urban terrorism, arguing “it would not have been tolerated in other countries. Gang violence is an urban terror. If there was a strategic plan we would have already made inroads.”

He recalled the August 2019 Western Cape Safety Summit where resolutions were made to address gang violence. But Isaacs said the situation has worsened with gang activities “increasing in Mitchells Plain”.

Where is ShotSpotter?

The City of Cape Town’s gunfire detection system, ShotSpotter, is under the spotlight because this initiative came to a halt after its tender expired in July 2019.

ShotSpotter Flex was first initiated in September 2016 over seven square kilometres in the high-crime areas of Manenberg and Hanover Park. This enabled the city to see where gunfire happened and to look at any patterns. 

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Asked about the system’s successes, Smith said: “It was estimated that the system increased our firearm recovery rate five times over.” Some 40% of all the firearms recovered in the city were from the seven square kilometres where the gunfire detection system was operating. 

From July 2016 until April 2019 a total of 19 721 gunshots were detected by ShotSpotter, and 68 firearms were recovered during this period, said Smith.

A Manenberg resident of more than 15 years inquired about the absence of the gunshot detection system in July 2019 and the city said it plan to have a new tender finalised by October that year. 

The resident, who wants to remain anonymous, recalled that when ShotSpotter was still in use, “as soon as the ShotSpotter goes off it’s in all the police and law enforcement vehicles and they can then go straight to where the ShotSpotter is going off. They can catch the guys walking with the guns. It worked. Now that it is not working the gangsters have field time. They can shoot whenever they want to because they know none of the cops can see them.”

Smith said the city’s metro police department had recommended that a new tender be initiated. “We had hoped to reinstate the gunfire detection system in the following financial year, but due to Covid-19 and the hard lockdown the country faced last year, it made commencing with a new tender process financially and logistically impossible.” 

He said that a new tender process for the gunfire detection system started in February this year.

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a junior daily news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She was previously a freelance journalist and a broadcaster at Maroela Media and Smile90.4FM.

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