Helenvale mob justice threat

THE shooting of a nine- year-old girl caught in the crossfire of gang violence while innocently playing in the garden of a house on Wednesday night has resulted in northern areas residents threatening to turn to mob justice if the situation is not brought under control soon.

Residents have also said that their children are being recruited by gang members to peddle drugs and guns.

Little Samantha Felix was shot shortly after 8pm when two members from the New Kids gang started shooting at rival members of the Nice Time Bozas, commonly known as the NTBs, who were gathered at a house in Leith Road, Helenvale.

Police have deployed additional members to the area and warned the community not to take the law into their own hands. Meantime, about 500 residents met at the Helenvale Resource Centre last night to address the situation.

Ward 13 councillor Nico du Plessis said the meeting was "good, but very sad because we remembered the children [victims of gang crossfire]".

Speaking out before the meeting Samantha's aunt, Nadine, 50, said the latest shooting was a revenge attack from the New Kids gang in a bid to eliminate members of the NTBs.

There have been several gang- related shootings in the northern areas this year already.

"Samantha was playing in the yard with friends. The next thing I heard that she had been shot. Luckily a neighbour who heard what happened rushed over and took her to hospital."

Samantha's distraught mother, Cheryl, 46, said: "Everyone has had enough. When I heard Samantha was shot all I could think of was if she was OK. I am just glad she is alive.

"We are all petrified for our children's safety. These gangsters are running the streets and trying to kill each other, and they are killing innocent children," said Cheryl referring to murdered Estelle "Nonnie" Valentine, 13, who was caught in the cross- fire of shooting on December 30 in Voisin Road, Helenvale.

She was walking home from the shops on a Saturday night.

Samantha's brother Devon, 12, said: "We know these gangsters are here and they are shooting. We are all scared and we have to be very careful playing in the street."

Ten Helenvale parents from the Project Advisory Committee gathered at the Resource Centre yesterday, about 50m from where Wednesday's shooting occurred, to voice their concerns.

"We will take the law into our own hands if we have to. The police are trying but we need to intervene for the safety of our families. We need the president [Jacob Zuma] and [Police] Minister Nathi Mthethwa to send the army here and sort these gangs out. It cannot go on like this.

"These gangsters are killing our children and families."

A PAC member who declined to be named said gang leaders were recruiting children to sell drugs and guns because they knew the law protected them to a degree.

PAC chairman Quinton Lawack said "We realise there are processes that have to be followed and before any action is taken we need to meet with all role-players and discuss the way forward. We do not encourage mob justice. We do not want it to come to that."

Du Plessis said residents had agreed to stand together against gang violence, and asked for the police to increase visibility. "We will walk from street to street and our intention is to visit problem homes. Emotions were so high that some people said they would break down those problem homes and chase the people out, obviously within the context of the law.

"It will work. The community said that they want to take back our streets. We can't live like this."

Police spokesman Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg appealed to the community to let the police do their work. "Two wrongs do not make a right.The police will get the perpetrators but need the community to assist them. We have members of the gang unit interacting with residents to keep the situation under control. It is volatile and we are meeting with stakeholders to ensure everyone understands mob justice will not be tolerated."

She said one of the suspected gangsters was also shot in the arm on Wednesday and discharged from hospital the same night.

The 19-year-old was caught yesterday morning in possession of a revolver. "We suspect the revolver had been stolen and is linked to gang attacks," Janse van Rensberg said.

She said since Friday the gang unit had also recovered five illegal firearms and arrested four suspected gangsters.