Port Elizabeth police in the Eastern Cape used stun grenades and tear gas to disperse residents who took to the streets in the early hours of Wednesday morning in the city’s northern areas to protest against ongoing gang wars and violent crime.
Police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu confirmed that police used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse crowds protesting at Marikana and Timothy Valley in Booysens Park.
Yolande Le Roux, the operations director at Northern Areas Survivors and Ambassadors Against Gangsterism, said communities were taking the law into their own hands because they felt that their plight fell on deaf ears.
Le Roux said that communities were calling on Police Minister Bheki Cele to attend to the issues in the northern areas personally. She said that the community felt that the military clampdown in the Western Cape would increase the gang element in the Eastern Cape.
“There is an ongoing spate of violence in the northern areas and the community has had enough. Nobody gives attention to what is the cause of gangsterism in our areas. Someone must be shot or blood must be shed before action is taken.”
Le Roux said the community had lost trust in police, adding that in some instances, police were in cahoots with the gangs.
“The community forced action from [the] province so that the department of education could provide fencing to safeguard the children at Strelitzia Primary School. If the community take no actions, SAPS sits back and waits for someone to die,” she said.
Le Roux said she had written to the Human Rights Commission asking for an investigation into the cause of gangsterism in the city, however, she said a response from HRC pointed towards the provincial police commissioner taking responsibility, adding that the HRC did not take their plea seriously.
She said she planned to write to the presidency calling for a commission to investigate the cause of gangsterism in the city’s northern areas.
“Government [needs] to step up and do something, there needs to be a holistic approach to this,” she said.
The violent protest comes a day after Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane’s visit to the city’s northern areas. Mabuyane said that no military would be deployed to the province because police had made “good progress” in eradicating gangs.
Strelitzia Primary School closed its doors last week due to safety concerns following a suspected gang-shooting near the school premises. It was not the first time shootings occurred close to the school.
In May, rival gangs were shooting at each other at the school gate and entered the school premises. At the time, Principal Clifton Jantjies said it was not uncommon and that the school was in dire need of fencing to safeguard the children from gangsters.
In the last two months, gang warfare saw the closure of several other schools in the city’s northern areas after a spate of killings. The protest action in Booysens Park is still currently underway and police are at the scene.
-African News Agency