47 Murders in 48 Hours in the Western Cape, Anti-Gang Unit Without Radios

Despite South Africa’s Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, stating on Monday that the Western Cape receives more resources than other Provinces, 47 murders were committed between 4am Saturday and 5am Monday. Civic rights groups allege the province’s Anti-Gang Unit (AGU) lacks essential equipment such as radios, relying on their personal cell phones and mobile data to communicate during call outs. 

What You Need to Know:

A violent weekend in the Western Cape has left 47 dead, with a great number of those deaths occurring in the Cape Flats. As previously reported, The communities which span the Cape Flats have been labeled as some of the most dangerous areas in South Africa, with locals referring to these areas as ‘no-go zones’. This is due to extreme levels of poverty, high levels of gang membership, proximity to Nigerian and Congolese gangs, and the free flow of high powered weapons through established gun smuggling routes. 

In 2019, the national army was deployed to the Cape Flats after 73 murders were committed in a single weekend in May. However, the violence returned upon the army’s departure. 

Academics estimate the existence of around 100,000 gang members affiliated to 130 different gangs in the Cape Flats alone, with the city of Cape Town home to a population of just 4 million. 

Gun battles in broad daylight are not uncommon in these areas, particularly between the flats’ most established gangs– the Americans, the Hard Livings, and the Junky Funky Kids (JKF). 

On Monday, Police Minister Bheki Cele, while at an event in the Cape Flat suburb of Hanover Park told residents, “We have put in more resources (here) than other provinces when it comes to fighting crime. We have brought extra resources together with extra police and cars to work on the gangster-infested police station and this is one (Hanover Park).” 

During the session, in which residents were encouraged to voice their concerns, one resident stated, “[the] Government has failed us, what is the way forward because Hanover Park is a graveyard. Ons is gatvol (we’ve had enough) because they are doing nothing for our people.”

Kashiefa Mohammed, Spokesperson for Phillipi Policing Forum said, “our people can’t go to church, or shopping and our children can’t go to school. Hanover Park will become a graveyard if authorities don’t bring in more police.”

The Details: 

Adding to the issue is the lack of essential equipment available to some of the Western Cape’s busiest policing units, such as the Anti-Gang Unit. 

In early February, a member of the South African Police Service (SAPS) turned to the media upon the promise of anonymity, to blow the whistle on the service’s broken emergency number. 

According to the whistleblower, SAPS emergency number system has suffered a breakdown, meaning the Service’s control room cannot reach the flying squad (Quick Response Unit) during an emergency. 

As such, the Police Officer alleged that officers were relying on their personal cell phones and mobile data to stay in contact during call outs, which proves difficult in areas where signal is unreliable. 

The system breakdown was attributed to old radio systems, with the Western Cape still making use of radios first issued in the 1980s. 

Gauteng Province, where Johannesburg is located, makes use of Tetra radio systems, which were rolled out in 2009. 

Ian Cameron, Director of Community Safety at civic rights organization Action Society SA, claimed in November last year that, “like the anti-gang units and the Flying Squad, exposed and isolated in their efforts to protect the vulnerable in the raging gang wars in the province. The main reason for the collapse, Action Society has learnt, is the fact that the radios that SAPS members are using were issued in the 1980s, and while some of them have been refurbished over the years, the system is collapsing completely.” 

The Western Cape’s Anti-Gang Unit was established in November 2018, six months before the country’s general elections, to combat gang crime in the Cape Flats. On February 23rd, just three months before the country’s general election in May, SAPS announced the addition of 47 new officers to the AGU as well as the appointment of a new Brigadier to head the Unit. 

However, the identity of this Brigadier is still unknown. On March 1st, local press, The Daily Maverick sent an inquiry into the identity of the Units new head to the Western Cape Police, with the Police announcing “Brigadier Joseph Raboliba is the commander of the Anti-Gang Unit in the Western Cape.” 

After this announcement, it came to light that Brigadier Raboliba had taken an offer of employment from the City of Cape Town and was not the Unit’s new commander.

Following two inquiries by The Daily Maverick on March 4th and March 5th, the identity of the AGU’s new Brigadier is still unknown. 

So, What Now?

In recent years, the Western Cape’s AGU has been plagued with scandal, including the murder of prominent AGU officer Charl Kinnear in September 2020. The lawyer for Nafiz Modack, the man accused of orchestrating Kinnear’s murder, has today revealed in court that Mr Kinnear had planned on exposing corrupt cops within the unit, prompting individuals to gun Kinnear down outside his home. 

While various members connected to the AGU appear in court, facing various murder and corruption charges, the murders continue in the Cape Flats, with those tasked with responding to the violence relying on mobile data with the hope that the suburb in which an individual was murdered, has signal.


Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger
Bianca Bridger is a Political Science Graduate from the University of Otago, New Zealand. Currently working as an Editor for The ModernInsurgent and writing for Atlas News, her interests include conflict politics, history, yoga and meditation.


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