Gugulethu residents live in fear after mass shootings

Police Minister Bheki Cele said that they are going to beef up police visibility in Gugulethu and other areas of the Cape Flats but residents are not optimistic about the impact. Photo by Asive Mabula.

Gugulethu residents say they are not hopeful that police interventions will stem the wave of criminal violence in the township.

Despite the interventions made in Gugulethu after the mass shootings that took place in September, residents of the township remain fearful. Public trust and confidence in the police and other law enforcement agencies has been shaken by these crimes and whether the police’s actions to restore this lost confidence have succeeded is open to question. We spoke to some residents.

Vuyokazi, a Gugulethu resident says that increasing police presence in Gugulethu might not help the situation, as the police are just as scared as the residents. “Some police officers are also Gugulethu residents, and they are also scared they might get shot,” she says.

The past few weeks have been the bloodiest in Cape Town, especially in the Gugulethu-Nyanga precinct, with more than 130 deaths reported within a week. While these cases are still under investigation, the residents together with some community representatives shared some speculations as to what the underlying causes may be.

The mass murders have cast a pall of fear over the community and most residents prefer to remain anonymous. One resident says that these shootings in Gugulethu affect both young and old. “All lives are at stake. If only the police, together with the government, would arise and do something. Be transparent enough to tell us what exactly they are doing with these killers because we are afraid,” he says.

Lulama Dinginto, the deputy chairperson of the Gugulethu CPF says that a huge part of these shootings has to do with the extortion mafia and boys copying what they see their older brothers do. “These boys are as young as 12-16 years of age; they rob, break into houses, demand money and rape older women,” she says.

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Simanye Jantjies, a Gugulethu resident, says that even the police fear for their lives because they are under-resourced. “Soon the Gugulethu police station will also close at night because they are also scared of these robberies,” she says.

Police Minister Bheki Cele said in a press conference that to combat this situation, an increase in police presence in Gugulethu and throughout the Cape Flats is to take effect. These will include different SAPS units, from the Anti-gang unit to an additional 2,600 trainees who are currently training in police colleges, as well as improvements to the detective capacity. “We also believe a change in the management of the Gugulethu police station and general policing precinct, will go a long way in stabilising the area,” said Minister Cele.

Brigadier Novela Potelwa, SAPS head of communications in the Western Cape, elaborates on the necessity to change the management of Gugulethu police station: “The main aim for the current changes seen in Gugulethu aren’t anything but meant to enhance capacity as the previous station commander, Brigadier Nokuzola Phethe has been moved to Paarl police station.” She says that the current station commander, Cyril Nkuna, is more experienced and familiar with the dynamics of policing Gugulethu.

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