Cape Town - The rate of killings in South Africa's murder capital, Nyanga, in Cape Town, continues to rise, with a 5,7% increase in murders between April and December last year, the SA Police Service's (SAPS) cluster commander for the area said on Friday.
''We don't know what is happening with people's minds,'' said Major-General Moses Memela on the sidelines of a Provincial Policing Needs and Priorities (PNP) community consultation in Nyanga.
''We are trying our best.''
He said about 1 000 police officers must cover a rapidly increased population of some 1.9 million who are served by the cluster's police stations in Nyanga, Manenberg, Bishop Lavis, Gugulethu, Elsie's River and Philippi East.
There are also 26 informal settlements and 144 schools in the area.
''It is where the blood is flowing in the Western Cape,'' said Memela.
He relies on officers being seconded from other police stations every weekend to bolster forces for the Thursday to Sunday crime spike.
''It is an area very difficult to police.''
Giving delegates a glimpse of statistics, Memela said that Browns Farm, south of the Cape Town International Airport and 22km from the Cape Town CBD, had a 41% increase in murders.
The SAPS do not release regular full crime statistics so these figures provide a rare glimpse into trends in one part of the country, although they are not accompanied by actual numbers of incidents, or comparisons with previous periods.
The last national release was in September 2016, which was of the crime figures from 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016. Nyanga recorded 279 murder cases in 2016, the highest in any cluster. There were 351 sexual offences, and 1053 assaults. Memela's report of the latest figures noted that most victims of murder in the cluster were stabbed with knives, broken glass, or other sharp objects, or shot dead outside their homes in arguments, gang violence and robberies.
There were some gains, but they were overshadowed by the increase of 48% for aggravated robbery at Browns Farm. Gangs of armed robbers were stealing cellphones, jewellery, electronic goods or anything that can be easily sold for cash. This money is often used to buy drugs.
Between 18:00 to 06:00 over the weekends were the worst, and delivery companies reported that their vans were held up for their cargoes of cigarettes, bread, cool drinks, furniture and liquor. Most of the people arrested had already served time in prison and had been released. ''We were thinking jail would change their minds, but when they come out they continue,'' observed Memela.
Rape increased by 61% in Browns Farm, followed by 22.6% in Gugulethu and KTC , 14.65% in Nyanga, 6.06% in Samora Machel, 6.72% in Crossroads, 6.72% in Europe and Barcelona, and 5.04% in Kiki Zone - all suburbs and settlements within the Nyanga cluster.In most cases the victims were walking home after socialising with friends at shebeens when they were threatened with fire arms and sharp objects, grabbed and raped inside a shack.Some incidents involved children being raped by relatives, friends, or people they know.
''The influence of alcohol consumption by both victims and offenders might also contribute to the incidence of sexual offences,'' Memela's report noted.
For the whole Nyanga cluster, attempted murder fell by 7.6%, assault GBH was down by 1.6%, and total sexual offences for the entire 92 square kilometer policing area fell by 1.8%. Even theft of a motor vehicle or motorcycle fell by 14.2%, as did shop lifting by 10.5%.
However, crimes that began with a misunderstanding or an argument, or crimes committed in private, showed relentless growth.
This included domestic violence, rape and murder. Common assault, the category which includes domestic violence, went up by 3.2% for the whole Nyanga cluster, but the variations in statistics from police station to police station showed alarming increases in places.In Browns Farm common assault increased by 47% and most of the victims were punched or kicked inside their home. Assault with Grievous Bodily Harm (GBH) mostly happened in bars, and again, Browns Farm recorded a 41% increase. The stations with the highest incidences of these crimes, share similar characteristics - overpopulation, poverty, large numbers of shacks, insufficient formal housing, high unemployment rates and the abuse of alcohol or drugs, particularly among the youth, according to Memela.
In Gugulethu alone murder dropped by 24.7%, attempted murder by 33.7%, and the total sexual offences for that area dropped by 11.7%.
But business burglary shot up by 75%, arson by 8.3%, theft out of a motor vehicle 27.6%, and common assault by 16.8%.
Nyanga alone experienced a 50% increase in business burglaries, a 5.4% increase in murder, a 14.6% increase in total sexual offences, and an 18.4% increase in common assault.
However, there was a 3.9% drop in attempted murder there, and theft of a motor vehicle or motorcycle dropped by a massive 36.7%. Theft out of a motor vehicle and motorcycle dropped by 34.6%.
Memela noted a disturbing increase in school burglaries - up 50% in Nyanga.
Wheelie bins were also being stolen more often to be used to move stolen property or dispose of a body.
He said last weekend police found a body in a wheelie bin in Philippi East and arrested three people.
According to provincial Safety and Security MEC Dan Plato, gangs, drugs and alcohol abuse were wreaking havoc in Western Cape communities.
He called for the urgent reinstatement of the police reservist system to bolster the work of the 76 accredited neighbourhood watches and 150 Community Policing Forums and for municipalities to make sure there was proper lighting and bushes were cleared in dangerous areas.
''Today we feel the impact of the loss of thousands of police reservists,'' said Plato, who has been instrumental in introducing a wide range of interventions to keep residents safe, particularly children.
''We must not stand by while the youth bear the brunt of this, the continued attack against our women and children,'' he said.
''The rape of our young girls, the abduction of our young girls. And then the killing, and then right after the killing the dumping of the body as if it is just a thing that we throw away somewhere.''
Plato said none of this must be swept under the carpet. ''The problem of people being shot, our ladies raped, that is not the community we want.'' Illegal shebeens With alcohol flagged as a contributor to crime, Dr Luzuko Mdunyelwa, CEO of the Western Cape Liquor Board urged residents in the Nyanga cluster to report illegal shebeens and bars. They should also lodge formal complaints against bottle stores they did not want in their area.Ironically, Big Daddy's Liquor Store backs on to the Nyanga police station.Nyanga Community Policing Forum chairperson Buyisile Makasi, who works in Premier Helen Zille's office had harsh words for the City of Cape Town.
The lighting was poor, streets were filthy, drains were blocked and water ran down the sidewalks during the drought, streets did not have names, and traffic congestion was extreme. ‘'You will see that it is depressing,'' he said. The information collected from these sessions will be given to Police Minister Fikile Mbalula to decide on how much funding the province gets. Mbalula has already visited Nyanga and Elsie's River this year with President Jacob Zuma and the Deputy Police Minister Bongani Mnkongi to support victims of crime.