Disgruntled residents of Westbury in Johannesburg say they will continue to camp outside the Sophiatown police station until police put an end to the ongoing gang-related violence in the community.
This after two men, aged 19 and 39, were gunned down in the area on Wednesday. The community is calling on Police Minister Bheki Cele to come and address their concerns and deploy a specialised task team to the area to deal with gang violence.
Westbury became notorious for drug peddling and gangsterism in the early 90s. Drug kingpins are now feared power houses in the community as they brazenly ply their trade without fear of the law.
It’s understood that the war between rival drug gangs “The Fast Guns and the Varados” is now intensifying as the battle for power and turf heats up. In the latest incident, two people were fatally shot in what appears to be a gang-related hit.
Westbury community devastated after three people shot dead:
Community leader Camry Jacobs says residents are tired of the constant bloodshed and they’re demanding urgent intervention.
“We are demanding answers, we are demanding change, because day in and day out we lose lives and one life is one to many. So, we will be camping in front of the police station until we see the change and until they meet our needs until further notice,” said Jacobs.
Jacobs says residents blame the increase in gang related murders on corrupt police officers who are working with drug dealers in the area.
“It is a disgrace; we want a reshuffle from head down. We want a complete reshuffle in our police station. They are not doing their jobs and they are failing us. They are working with our gangsters and drug dealers in the community. So, we want a complete change. We want to see new faces every three months, new police must be coming in, we want a complete change at our local police station,” Jacobs adds.
Former gang member, Mario van Wyk, has attributed the recent spike in gang violence to the high level of unemployment in the community.
He says since the COVID-19 pandemic, many residents who lost their jobs have now resorted to selling drugs, to put food on their tables.
“More guys are coming up and during COVID people lost their jobs and their homes and income and people have lost family. So, what happens now, for argument’s sake, I would get some of my provident fund and I speak to someone and say look we going to struggle so we need to start doing this business and that’s how people begin and that’s how they start opening shops, they call it opening shops and you have it as your corner. That I would say is on the increase due to unemployment being a big contributor,” Van Wyk added.
Westbury residents protest against gang violence: