Gangland violence tip of iceberg

The shocking gangland violence and unrest that has engulfed Westbury in Johannesburg after the killing of Heather Peterson, 46, metres from her house, is but the tip of a very deep iceberg.

Peterson was hit by a stray bullet when suspected gangsters opened fire on each other last week. Since her death, Westbury residents have gone on the rampage, demanding authorities take action to quell the scourge of drugs and gang-related crimes in their area.

Every few years we see gang violence flare up across the country and dramatic killings ensue. But in between the headline-grabbing killings, these very same gangs terrorise communities on a daily basis.

Last week, several communities in the Western Cape, including those from Bishop Lavis, Hanover Park and Bonteheuwel, took to the streets also demanding an end to gang violence in their areas.

The main problem propelling these gangs is the supply and sale of illicit drugs that police have turned a blind eye to, if residents are to be believed.

According to the latest crime statistics, there was a 10.5% increase in drug-related crimes committed between 2017 (292689) and 2018 (323547).

Yesterday, Westbury residents, much like the Western Cape communities plagued by the same problem, told police minister Bheki Cele they wanted a sustainable solution to deal with drug-related crimes in their area.

They called on Cele to take decisive action against the top cops in the local police station they accused of failing them. They called for more police to be deployed and more drug dealers to be locked away.

Cele promised them he would appoint a task team to investigate the claims of police inaction and their complicity in crimes reported in the area.

Of course, we know from experience that all of this will not lead to a sustained decline in drug dealing and violence. Gangs and drug dealers will likely go to ground during heightened law enforcement but their staying power will outlast the task team.

Perhaps the most sustainable way of dealing with the problem of drugs in our communities is two-fold - law enforcement and taking away the market from drug dealers by reducing the high rate of youth unemployment.

Police Minister Bheki Cele had a meeting with the protesting community of Westbury on Tuesday October 2 2018, where he gave community members the opportunity to air their grievances, and propose solutions as well.