Port Elizabeth – In the last week at least two people have been killed and several people injured in the crossfire as turf wars between local gangs in the Northern Areas have flared up.
On Saturday a 9-year old-boy was shot and killed by a stray bullet in an apparent gang hit gone wrong, while police reported that the body of an 18-year-old male who had been killed in apparent gang retaliation, had been discovered on Wednesday.
Other recent incidents include a 10-year-old girl who was hit in the chest by a stray bullet on Sunday, a 26-year-old woman was hit by several stray bullets intended for her boyfriend that were fired through her bedroom window on Monday morning, and three people injured in a suspected gang hit outside the Gelvandale Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.
A security guard was also recently shot after getting caught in the crossfire outside the Mercantile Hospital.
Social ills lead to gang violence
Community activist Justin Oliphant, who runs the Endangered Species programme that targets youth at risk from gang activity, said that while gang violence was currently on the increase, it was a constant cause of concern in the Northern Areas.
“Since 2010 there have been in excess of 600 attempted murder cases registered in the Northern Areas and over 170 gang-related fatalities,” he said.
Oliphant said the problem of gang violence stemmed from numerous social ills that could not be combated by policing alone.
“Currently we are simply treating the symptoms,” he said.
Oliphant said a proper multi-sectoral approach was needed to address the problems within the community that led to gangsterism, such as the exceptionally high levels of unemployment and subsequent poverty, the numerous challenges at schools, and alcohol and substance abuse.
In a meeting convened by the ANC’s regional task team, Mayor Danny Jordaan told residents of the troubled Northern Areas on Thursday that they were taking steps to address the problem.
“One of the biggest challenges here is crime, gangsterism and unemployment. I want to assure you that we have heard your pleas and we are going to make very decisive interventions to deal with these problems.”
Working with communities
Jordaan spoke of an initiative he has spearheaded since taking office, wherein he has set aside a multi-million rand fund in the 2015/16 budget that ward councillors can access for the improvement of sports facilities and for the roll-out of youth, sport and development programmes.
ANC provincial spokesperson Oscar Mabuyane called on government to urgently step up its authority in dealing with gang violence, saying the situation cannot be tolerated.
“Where is the government to protect that community? Where are the police?”
“We must free innocent people and install peace and safety for all citizens. We also urge the members of those communities to work with the police to root out these criminals, without their contribution, that community can never be normal,” he said.
Derrick Spies, News24