Gang project under fire

CapeTimes24122015

Cape Times
Thursday December 24, 2015

COMMUNITY organisations have slammed the City’s Ceasefire operation as ineffective for failing to curb gang violence on the Cape Flats.

The project, based on a successful US programme, was launched as a pilot project in Hanover Park, Gugulethu and Manenberg in 2012, as an extension of the City’s Violence Prevention Through Urban Upgrade programme, before being extended in 2013 to other areas affected by gang violence.

But crime-fighters from various Cape Flats communities expressed their dismay at the Ceasefire operation in a report handed to the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance (GCTCA).

The Community Action towards a Safer Environment (Case) released the report on Sunday after meeting with community crime-fighters from Manenberg, Hanover Park, Philippi, Ottery, Kensington, Facreton, Bonteheuwel, Stikland, Bishop Lavis and Mitchells Plain. Case founder and clinical psychologist Dr Lane Benjamin said the organisation’s findings were based on 15 years of social work in gang-infested areas on the Cape Flats.

Benjamin said the project was simply not working.

Benjamin said while the system appeared to work in the US, where it was formulated, it has failed in the province because Ceasefire members refuse to work with police. “In the US gangs operate to make money, but on the Cape Flats gangsterism is part of a culture.”

The province and City’s plan with Ceasefire involves recruiting “violence interrupters”, who have credibility with gangs and are often former gangsters.

Weldon Cameron, who runs a gang violence intervention programme in Hanover Park and has trained to become a Ceasefire violence interrupter, was forthright in his criticism of the project. “Ceasefire does not work on the Cape Flats. Often the former gangsters working in the programme revert to their old ways and their negotiation skills are a fruitless exercise as gang wars always resurface,” he said.

Benjamin said the implementation of Ceasefire should never have been be a “cut and paste” into the Cape Flats.

“Differences between the US and the Cape Flats should have been taken into account.”

GCTCA chairperson Philip Bam said it was the duty of state functionaries to protect the public. “If these functionaries become dysfunctional and they cannot fulfil their mandate to protect the people then essentially that is committing treason.

“We do not see gang violence ceasing. People are killed daily due to gang violence. The question we need to be asking is why is this happening in this province while gangsterism seems to be under control in other provinces,” Bam said.

Mayco member for Safety and Security Jean-Pierre Smith denied that Ceasefire was failing.

“We have just completed an assessment of the first three years of Ceasefire (in Hanover Park) which shows definitely that it does work.

“There has been a 31 percent reduction in murders compared to the period in the preceding years,” Smith said.

He explained that violence interrupters could never work with police because they would lose credibility among the highrisk gangsters and “would no doubt be killed very quickly”.

4 comments to Gang project under fire

  • Colin Arendse

    The Cape Times front page article “Gang project under fire” has lifted the lid on
    simmering tensions on the Cape Flats as gang violence continues unabated under the watch
    of the DA administration.

    I find it ironic that on the same day that Councillor JP Smith boasted about the success
    of Operation Ceasefire, a 4 year old old was tragically shot in Hanover Park.

    The DA’s flagship gimmick has been mired in controversy since its inception.

    In December 2012, the City of Cape Town handed R11, 070, 567-13 to an entity called First
    Community Resource Centre. FCRC refers to itself as a Non-Profit Organisation but does
    not display an NPO number on its website. Also, as far as I am aware, neither FCRC nor
    the City has provided any audited financial statements of how the more than R11m from our
    Treasury has been spent since 2012.

    In addition, this is the same FCRC that pleaded with the parole board at Pollsmoor to
    release alleged gang boss, Shafiek John from prison after he had been locked up by
    General Jeremy Vearey and the Operation Combat Unit. It is also common cause that
    Operation Ceasefire and its Camp Joy has caused nothing but havoc in the once tranquil
    suburb of Strandfontein where residents recently buried two young men at the same funeral;
    one the father of a year old baby girl.

    Also, according to the SAPS facebook page, members of its successful Operation Combat
    Unit arrested a suspect on the property of Camp Joy on 11 November for a double murder in
    Hanover Park a few hours earlier.

    It is tragic that our impoverished citizens have to live on the Cape Flats under the same
    conditions that were prevalent prior to our hard fought democracy in 1994.

    Besides wasting R11 million on a crime prevention programme that is clearly not working in
    Hanover Park, the DA administration also spent about R30 million on a football tournament
    that was a spectacular failure in July.

    This wanton abuse of the fiscus should be investigated by the Public Protector as it is an
    insult to taxpayers who will hopefully vote for change once local government elections are held in a few month’s time’.

  • Lester September

    @Mike Crockett – That you lead with political biased statements is deeply concerning.

    While murders might be down, this could be due to a number of interventions, most likely that by SAPS, and Community Police Forums which are the only visible policing service on the Cape Flats.

    Cape flats organisations are on record stating that gang violence in Cape Town’s ganglands over the last few years has reached astronomical heights.

    Alderman Smith a few months ago admitted that Ceasefire itself had recorded more than 400 shots fired in one weekend, with 200 shots fired on any given Saturday alone. This is not a ceasefire of gang hostilities, and feeds into Hanover Park Community Police Forum’s Mr Weldon Cameron’s statements that Ceasefire has failed. Mr Cameron is a former policemen who puts his own life on the line patrolling his area, and speaks from experience and gang violence stats.

    While murder might be down, Alderman JP Smith’s comment, in the article are in conflict with the lived experiences. In fact Alderman JP Smith and MEC Dan Plato admitted failure, when they called for the army, even though Municipal Policing is the main support to SAPS.

    Your attack on Rev Philip Bam is deeply concerning, he like Mr Cameron, puts his life at risk patrolling the streets of his gang infested community. A section of this area has seen 100 deaths this year alone due to a raging gang war, which Ceasefire has not been able to quell at any stage.

    I would certainly like to meet with you, on the concerns you raise, but would advise that you speak from a point of substantiated factual information, and not from any attempt to protect the political party of your choice.

  • PHILIP BAM

    It’s quite revealing when people in response to a differing viewpoint turns to attacking the messenger. Blaming hidden political agendas has become the hall mark of political party lackeys. Perhaps Mike Crocket could expand on his “other agenda” conspiracy theory. Why is it about the “DA”. Once the City government adopts a programme it is a “government” initiative and we should separate party from State. It is so dangerous to equate the city government with the DA party. Lets deal with the issue of gangsterism. Yes, lets appreciate the efforts of those who have a genuine social concern and seek to transform the gangster. But this cannot be at the expense of lives being lost and little children being injured. Everything must be done to avoid the bloodshed while other programmes are ongoing. The fact that within a few weeks, 13 people died in the gang shootings in one area, with three on one day, is evidence that whatever project is being run, is not effective. The police action is failing. the social action is slow. One gangster transformed is to be lauded but we have to deal with the ongoing gang violence in our are. The guns must be removed. The non reformed/transformed gangsters must account for their terror against vulnerable communities. And the connection between gangs and drugs must receive the highest attention. So Mr Crocket continue your good work. But the tide of violent crime lead by gansters are turning into a Tsunami. I hear my community everyday. They are crying out for help. I still believe that social action can only work if the environment is stable.

  • Mike Crockett

    Don’t make gang violence a political football

    The gang problem on the Cape Flats is a tragic legacy of our Apartheid’s past. This problem is only exacerbated by the inept reporting of Carlos Petersen “Gang project under fire” (Cape Times 24/12/2015).

    It has been my privilege to sit with a number of gang shooters over the past three months, to listen to their stories, treat where possible their own damaged emotions and seek to call out from within them the beautiful person they can still become.

    To think that there are people seeking to undermine and divide this work for political gain is dreadfully sad.

    In a clear attempt by your pro ANC newspaper to score some points over the DA run City Council, you attack the DA sponsored Ceasefire Project without give any credence to the factual information provided by Mayco Safety and Security J.P. Smith. You certainly have no qualms quoting the unsubstantiated and ludicrous comments of Philip Bam which only indicate that his concerns are not with gang violence but some other agenda.

    I am sure that the 31% reduction figure quoted by Mr Smith includes the contribution made by CASE and one would hope that Dr Lane Benjamin is seeking cooperation with Ceasefire in finding increasingly effective ways of combating this dreadful scourge. It is her professional skills that we desperately need. One would hope that she is able to rethink her rather naive implication that Cape gangs don’t operate to make money!!

    Nowhere have I seen any hint of anti-police activity or the harbouring of any one they are looking for, but anyone with a basic understanding of the dynamics of what we are dealing with will realise that working openly hand in hand with the police would be silly.

    Michael Crockett
    Pinelands

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