Six anti-gang unit cops shot as police admit Cape murders are 'out of hand'
Six members of the Anti Gang Unit were shot and injured during a shootout in Nyanga in the early hours of Wednesday, just hours after police minister Bheki Cele said more officers and firepower was needed to curb a spate of killings in the Western Cape.
The unit - unveiled by Cele and President Cyril Ramaphosa in a bid to clamp down on rampant gang violence - were tracing suspects at Sweet Home Farm informal settlement when they came under fire.
Police spokesperson Brig Novela Potelwa said the unit had just apprehended a suspect allegedly linked to a recent series of murders in the area when shots were fired from nearby shacks.
Six of the police members were shot and injured, two of them seriously.
The shooting comes just hours after provincial police commissioner Khombinkosi Jula conceded, at a press briefing with Cele, that "murder has got out of hand" but said there were plans in place to deal with the scourge.
“The area is difficult to access with a terrain that is poorly lit and shacks erected close to each other. Unfortunately, the area is also a hide-out for dangerous criminals. Recently a spate of murders took place in the area,” said Potelwa of the shooting incident at Nyanga.
“Trauma counselling is currently offered to anti-gang-unit members and police have launched a manhunt for the suspects,” she added.
Cele described the shootings as “an attack on the state”.
“Attacking members of the South African Police Service is an attack on the state, the safety of our men and women in blue remains high on the agenda of the SAPS and is at the heart of the SAPS strategic imperatives to ensure the safety of our members,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.
Western Cape premier Alan Winde said on Tuesday that police were “woefully under-resourced ” in the province where in May 331 murders were recorded, compared with 304 murders in May 2018.
“That is more than 10 murders per day in the province - lives cut short by senseless violence,” said Winde.
“In the Western Cape, the police to population ratio is 1 police officer for every 509 people,” he said. “In the Cape Town metro, this is even higher at 1:560 against a national average of 1:375.”
“Western Cape police are having to investigate 10 new murders per day and that doesn’t even include the thousands of other crimes that make up their caseloads,” he said.
“People are being killed. Families are losing breadwinners and children. All of this while gangsters and other violent criminals go unpunished.”
Cele said: "There is just no way we can sit in comfort with folded arms and watch young people and women dying at the hands of the gangsters."
He said more police personnel and hardware would be deployed in the province to curb violent crime.