Saturday, May 18, 2024

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Philippi gangsters say they’ll only stop killing if government pays them

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Following the murder of two security guards in Philippi East last week, members of an extortion gang say they, and not security companies, should be paid to protect City of Cape Town infrastructure and workers.

“All we want is for the government to understand that the protection of their workers and companies contracted to them is our business,” said one of two members of a Philippi gang GroundUp spoke to on Friday.

The pair said neither they nor their gang were involved in shooting the security guards on 23 April, but claimed a rival gang was responsible.

The Western Cape SAPS media liaison office declined to release the names of the deceased security guards, with media liaison officer Joseph Swartbooi referring GroundUp to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). NPA spokesperson Eric Ntabazalila said it was “strange” that SAPS referred enquiries to him as the NPA were not involved at this point. 

The extortionists said they and other gangs had met and agreed that security companies would be attacked if they came into their areas.

The security companies were doing what the gangs are “supposed to be doing”, and by attacking them “we are showing they are useless”, the extortionists said.

They said if government paid the gangs to protect infrastructure and staff, there would be no intimidation, threats or killings. Government employees and their contractors are targeted because “the government does not seem to want to negotiate with us”.

“There will be no security company coming to our areas and escorting government workers and their contracted companies because that duty is for us to do. When the government does not want to meet us half-way, more lives will be lost and there will be bloodshed.”

The gangsters said what they wanted from the authorities was “a few thousands of rands from the millions of rands that they are paying the security companies”.

“R50,000 a month to protect workers from five different areas would not harm the government,” one of the gang members said. He said security companies were being paid more than the gangsters were asking.

On Tuesday the armed security guards had escorted five operational staff from the City to a site in Phola Park, Philippi East, where repair and maintenance on a sewer line was to be undertaken.

According to a statement by the City, the staff got out of their vehicle and gathered their tools to inspect the pipe. While they were busy, two armed men approached the City vehicle and another two headed to a nearby toilet block where multiple shots were fired.

The City staff and residents fled for their lives, but both security guards were fatally wounded. A City staff member was also injured in a hard fall.

SAPS Western Cape spokesperson Frederick van Wyk said the two victims were approached by two unknown men who shot them and took both their firearms. “The suspects also fled with the key of the City Council vehicle,” said Van Wyk.

So far, no arrests have been made.

Mayco Member for Water and Sanitation Zahid Badroodien said the City was “shocked at the senseless act which has claimed the lives of two men hard at work serving the community”.

Badroodien said staff were receiving medical attention and trauma counselling. “These horrendous experiences deeply impact everyone, especially those working at the forefront of service delivery.”

He said various City services were “severely impacted by criminal attacks” in parts of Philippi, including in Kosovo informal settlement, where a stormwater upgrading project was under way.

Tactical response and security services were being provided to both staff and contractors in the Philippi area in the face of continuing threats. In the last financial year this cost R8.5-million.

Badroodien said on 17 April, City staff were also robbed in two separate incidents. In one incident, a team was dealing with a blocked sewer pipe in Clarke Estate, Elsies River when one of the staff was robbed of his cellphone. In the second incident, a team of five was held at gunpoint and robbed of their personal belongings while they were in Blue Downs attending to a burst water pipe.

The City would not stop delivering services to these areas, but Badroodien appealed to residents to help “root out the criminals blocking progress in communities”.

David Bruce, a consultant at the Institute for Security Studies, said organised crime involving violent criminal groups has become entrenched in areas such as Nyanga, Philippi, and Khayelitsha. Bruce said a key element of the problem is the widespread availability of guns, and the police have “no proper strategy” to address gun violence. What strategy they have is “very reactive”, he said.

He said there had been previous attacks on City officials but believed the main motivation for the murder of the two security guards last week could have been to rob them of their guns, which were “highly prized possessions in the criminal world”. “It is clearly insufficient to deploy armed personnel to protect municipal workers, unless the guards are themselves properly trained and equipped to protect themselves against robbery or other attack.”

A security guard lost control of the company car he was driving when he was shot at by gangsters on Sagoloda Street in Philippi on Wednesday 24 April, and crashed into a house. He was injured and taken to hospital in a private car for treatment. While this reporter was taking photographs of the scene, he was placed under arrest and detained for nearly three hours before being released. GroundUp has since engaged with the police on this matter.

Written by GroundUp. The original article can be found here.

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