Cops shut down community's 'show of force' against gangsterism
A group of community activists wearing bulletproof vests and carrying guns took to the streets of Port Elizabeth's northern areas on Sunday in a bid to drum up support against the fight on gangsterism.
By early Monday morning, police confirmed that a criminal probe into the march and motorcade was being investigated after a series of videos emerged on social media.
Authorities have since warned that the probe was in terms of the Gathering Act after the group allegedly had no permission to stage the walkabout.
Several residents, whose faces were covered, rode through the streets of Gelvandale, Helenvale and Bethelsdorp yelling over a loudhailer for the gangs to come fight them.
Several vehicles driving in convoy, flanked with armed residents escorting the motorcade, and made their way through the “hot spot” areas of gangland calling the gangsters out to the street for a shootout.
Several videos of the motorcade emerged on Sunday evening shortly after it was stopped by Bethelsdorp police.
The show of force comes after a message on the Gelvan Patrols Sector 2 Facebook page, which is effectively a neighbourhood watch, called for residents, security companies and other roleplayers to join them in a show of force.
The message called for all interested parties to meet at 2pm on Sunday for a “peaceful motor convoy” starting at the Gelvandale Track.
“We call on all members of the community, peace-loving citizens, neighbourhood watch members, crime fighters, security companies and everyone at large, let's stand together in unity.”
The call for unity follows a string of gang-related attacks over the past four weeks which has left 10 people dead and close to 20 injured.
The latest spate of shootings at the weekend saw Dillion Jordaan, 22, shot and killed at a house in Bham Place in Bloemendal.
Jordaan was shot and killed while he was getting a haircut on Saturday morning. Jordaan’s 29-year-old friend who was with him was shot multiple times but survived.
By 2pm on Sunday, a 46-year-old man was sitting in the garage of his house in Renecke Street in Helenvale when two unidentified gunmen opened fire, shooting him in the leg.
The videos, which are going viral online, show a man yelling out of the car window in Afrikaans with a loudhailer, challenging the gangsters to come out of their homes and fight.
The group called all the gangsters cowards and called out the 16 Honde Gang (16 Dogs Gang) to come into the street and fight them.
“You (gangsters) are cowards. Come shoot us. Come on, there is no safety for the people of Katanga (Helenvale). Where are the 16 puppies? Here we are. Come fight us. Katanga (Helenvale), you cannot let the 16 puppies hold you under siege.
"Come on Katanga, come on people, stand together. This is our place. You let the gangs hold you under siege. They rob and shoot innocent people and children.
"Where are they, come on 16 puppies, where are you? Where are all the gangsters. You hiding away now. We have a real challenge,” one of the men in the video shouts.
One of the videos was uploaded to the groups' Facebook page with a message stating: “A little something about today... We taking back our streets... Enough is enough. Away with gangsters!!!”
One of the event organisers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the drive was part of a show of force.
“Mothers and women were crying in the street and clapping their hands to show their support to us while we were going past.
"They appreciated the call for unity and we wanted to show them that they are not alone. We are here to help them and take back the streets,” he said.
The convey was joined by an estimate 100 people and about 20 to 30 vehicles – including various private security companies.
“We need them to stand up and fight together. We have been trying to get the police to assist us with these projects but we do not have much joy.
"They are more worried about the guns we carry which are all legally owned,” he said.
Questioned if the group was linked to former anti-gang groups, People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (Pagad) or Pagaf, the organiser confirmed that some members were formerly part of the group.
"Due to the stigma attached to the names we are trying to take a different approach," he said.
Asked about the police stopping the motorcade, the organiser said that they were pulled over in Bethelsdorp by Nyala’s and the tactical response team.
“They were worried about us not applying for permission to have this march. We tried to explain that it is a show of force and support.
"We have tried to work with the police, but they view us as vigilantes and at some stage even target us when we do neighbourhood patrols,” he said.
Police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu confirmed a case under the Gathering Act was opened and being investigated.
"Police are warning community members that they are not above the law and such acts are tantamount to intimidation and can have tragic results.
"Any marches must be done within the ambit of the law. Acts such as this is seen as counteracting our efforts of constructive and meaningful engagements with community leaders and religious fraternities.
"The police will not allow a state of lawlessness while stamping the authority of the State," she said.