At least 74 were bystanders
The imminent release of the third quarter (October to December) 2023 crime statistics presents us with the opportunity to reflect on the April to September 2023 figures, as they pertain to gang murders across the Western Cape.
During this period, gangs, which continue to torment our communities, were responsible for the deaths of 404 people. This equates to an average of two people per day over the six month period.
Gang-related murders contribute significantly to the murder rate in the province, which continues to be the highest in the country.
Gangs are primarily found on the Cape Flats in the Cape metro. Over time, they have spread their tentacles to other parts of the Western Cape, and we are also gradually seeing greater links with domestic and global criminal networks.
In the 2022/23 financial year there were 802 gang-related murders across the country. Of these, 675 – more than 80% – were in the Western Cape.
Of the 404 deaths, a devastating 74 were innocent victims who had no gang affiliations or were mistakenly identified. (When a murder is recorded, Law Enforcement and SAPS ascertain whether there were any links between gangs and the victim. Various methods are employed to establish this.)
One of the many examples is the recent murder of a 12-year-old girl who was killed in Beacon Valley, Mitchells Plain, after being caught in alleged gang crossfire – a young life who will never realise any of her dreams and aspirations.
The recent 18-year prison sentence handed down to Fadwaan Murphy and 15-year sentence to his ex-wife for their criminal drug enterprise is an enormous victory. It clearly shows what can be achieved when the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA) is effectively utilised.
I commend the South African Police officers who were responsible for the investigation, arrest and subsequent conviction of this individual and his partners for the role they played in destroying too many families and lives. I also welcome the current incarceration of other so-called leading figures, and I will use my full oversight functions to ensure that the justice system does its work.
A deep concern remains that as much as these apparent leaders end up in jail, the violence, drug smuggling and murders are continuing in our communities. This is what we have to stop if we don’t want to see people losing their lives on a daily basis due to gang violence.
Provincial government steps up
SAPS Anti-Gang Unit (AGU), whose primary mandate is to disrupt and stop all gang activities, has to do better. While I understand that they, like SAPS in general, are severely under-resourced and do not have all the required equipment, their failure to act cannot be at the expense of our residents.
The AGU should fulfil their mandate and combat gangs wherever they might occur. For example, the POCA should be used on all gang related crime. The failure of the AGU to address gangsterism is one of the many reasons for our call for the devolution of SAPS. It is only under a capable provincial government such as ours that we will be able to ensure a professional and well-resourced unit that will confront gangsterism head-on in our province.
As the Western Cape Government we have already stepped in where the national government continues to fail our residents. In 2019, we launched our Western Cape Safety Plan which seeks to halve the murder rate by 2029, while also seeking to make this the safest province in the country.
In 2020, our Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP) officers, which stems from the safety plan, were deployed to the areas with the highest murder rates in the Cape Metro. These include: Delft, Gugulethu, Harare, Khayelitsha (Site B policing precinct), Kraaifontein, Mfuleni, Mitchells Plain, Nyanga, Philippi East, and Samora Machel. Other high-crime areas in which they are deployed are Atlantis, Bishop Lavis and Hanover Park, along with Lavender Hill, Steenberg and Grassy Park.
We are seeing the impact of our interventions, with the crime statistics for January to March 2023 showing that the Western Cape had the highest reduction in the murder rate of 14%. This was followed by a 5.5% reduction in the murder rate from April to June 2023. Since inception our LEAP officers have also confiscated 522 firearms. Part of the reason for successes is due to LEAP, where officers are deployed based on evidence, data and where the need is greatest, in partnership with the community and other law enforcement agencies.
Our safety plan also focuses on rural areas with our Rural Safety Units deployed in the Swartland and Overstrand municipal areas. In addition to this, in these areas, along with Mossel Bay, we have also deployed our K-9 units. All these units operate throughout their entire districts which is inclusive of the West Coast, Overberg and Garden Route. This ensures greater visibility and further strengthens SAPS’ hand in combatting crime throughout the province. These units are showing consistent success where they operate.
We will continue to do everything in our power to fight crime and find innovative and creative ways to expand our footprint and make an impact with the limited resources and powers that we have. Our priority is that our citizens live in safer environments, free from fear, and in dignity.
Reagen Allen is Western Cape Minister of Police Oversight and Community Safety.
Views expressed are not necessarily those of GroundUp