Gang violence in Port Elizabeth

Khoisan activists and community members sleep on a hill to highlight the scourge of gang violence in PE northern areas. For the past 5 months, more than 100 gun related deaths were reported at the Gelvandale mortuary. Photos: ANA

Gang violence in Port Elizabeth: 117 dead in five months

Most of the deaths reported are gunshot wound-related.

Gang violence in Port Elizabeth

Khoisan activists and community members sleep on a hill to highlight the scourge of gang violence in PE northern areas. For the past 5 months, more than 100 gun related deaths were reported at the Gelvandale mortuary. Photos: ANA

Bodies have been piling up at a Port Elizabeth mortuary in recent months and many of them can be linked to the more than 100 murders in the city’s northern areas.

Postmortems reveal that many of the dead were shot. The mortuary conducts postmortems for bodies that come from the city’s northern areas, which include Bethelsdorp. 

More than 100 gunshot wound-related deaths

Impeccable sources say that in the last five months the Gelvandale Mortuary has recorded more than 100 gunshot wound-related deaths. 

The rise in fatal gunshot attacks continues despite the intervention initiated by Police Minister Bheki Cele late last year, which has since been withdrawn. 

An official at Forensic Authorities, who asked not to be named, said the workload for staff at the Gelvandale and New Brighton mortuaries had increased in recent months. 

The shootings are not necessarily being investigated as gang related, but they indicate a serious scourge of violence. 

With the deployment of the National Intervention Unit (NIU) in December last year, Cele also promised that a new police station would be built in the Booysens Park precinct. 

A month after the intervention was effected, police confiscated drugs to the value of R500,000. Detectives at the Provincial Gang Investigation Unit, made up of about 20 members, took on 34 new cases that led to 40 arrests. 

Gang violence in Port Elizabeth spirals out of control

In addition, 79 arrests were effected in which 10 illegal firearms and 122 rounds of ammunition were recovered. 

But with 117 people dead so far and no end to the violence questions are being raised about the effectiveness of measures implemented.

Some detectives investigating gang related cases claim they sit with more than 40 dockets each that need to be acted on.

Police spokesperson, Colonel Priscilla Naidu said that in December last year an NIU deployment from province arrived in Port Elizabeth a day after the minister’s visit. 

In February a national NIU deployment arrived, both units dealt specifically with gangs. Naidu said that both units left the city at the end of May. 

Naidu said there was still, however, local intervention operating from the Operational Command Centre (OCC) tasked to deal with gang related crime. 

Calls for the army to be deployed

Meanwhile, activists are not convinced that the northern areas are in need of more police resources. They instead want the army to be roped in so police can take over a “contained” situation. 

Social activist and community leader, Christian Martin, suggested that “a state of emergency” be declared in the affected areas.  

Martin reported 17 gang related deaths for January, 13 deaths in February, 18 in March, 22 in April and another 22 killings in May. 

“When we ask for more resources from the police it means we are planning for more deaths. We have become so used to our abnormal situation. Police must come up with an integrated plan. There needs to be a change in the social environment what we don’t need is more police,” said Martin. 

Khoi-San activists patrol for peace

Concerned Khoi-San activists and community members have for the past week embarked on an anti-crime campaign, sleeping on a hillside near extension 31 and 32 in Bethelsdorp. 

The group conducts daily walks in the area in the heart of the violence. 

They will continue with the sleep-in up until Sunday with a 100 man march. 

“This is a spiritual fight, we looked to the authorities for help now we are taking it to God,” said a representative of the group.

Martin said sleeping on the hill that overlooked the northern areas was ironic, the area is beautifully lit up at night, but you see a world at war with itself. 

“We are heartbroken because it’s only us fighting this. We are fed up we have been left to our own vices. This is a civil war in our community, a terrorism, a self inflicted genocide. You can’t blame another race. This is a self-inflicted genocide where a particular race [coloured community] is killing itself.” 

Martin said it was an abnormal phenomena whereas if you visited any coloured community in South Africa, as like the Cape Flats, you would find the same problems. 

The troubled northern areas include Arcadia, Booysens Park, Bloemendal, Windvogel, Salt Lake, Marikana, Salsoneville, Timothy Valley, Jacksonville, which mostly makes up Bethelsdorp. Other areas include Gelvandale, Cleary Park, Malabar and Helenvale, among many other smaller extensions. 

These areas are a stark reminder of the cold, calculated architecture of apartheid, that ensured people of colour were located away from the city’s CBD.

By African News Agency (ANA); Editing by Moses Mudzwiti

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