Nyanga township is Cape Town’s murder hotspot

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Sex and drug crimes, hijacking and kidnapping have all increased in Nyanga township, named the Western Cape province’s murder hotspot.

Nyanga failed to show a drop in almost every crime on the list when the national police ministry released its crime statistics in September.

“God is probably punishing us. It’s been going on for long now,” one woman who lives in the area told City Press.

She did want her name published because “someone can attack me.”

“I’m afraid it will come back to me if I say something. It’s not safe around here. There are gangs and criminals in our community. Some of them (criminals) are still in primary school. They stab people if they want a cell phone.”

Thirty-five more murders were reported in Nyanga from April 1, 2011 to March 31 this year, compared to the same period the previous year. Murder jumped from 198 to 233. In total, 2,300 murders were reported in the Western Cape in the statistics year.

Masamdiswe Mpiliswano, a second-year accounting student, said she heard about murders, robbery and residential burglaries in the township where she was born.

“I was once robbed outside the (Nyanga) police station. These guys stole my phone and earrings. I went into the police station and the police looked around to find the guys. They couldn’t find them,” said Mpiliswano.

“Crime has gotten worse. There are more gangsters now. They don’t work and they rob people. I feel scared when I hear about all these things.”

Mpiliswano said that “police are trying to do their job” but needed to “drive around (to patrol the area) all time and not only during the night.”

“They can do a better job. People go to the police station and report crimes but some are tired of waiting. That’s why they beat criminals,” she said.

Her aunt Pulane Mpiliswano, who sells meat at a sidewalk braai spot, said she had seen robberies at the four-way stop where her business is located.

Pulane Mpiliswano. Photo by Yazeed Kamaldien

“They rob you. It happens right here next to the road,” she said.

Theo Sir, who works for a courier company, said Nyanga residents are ready to “take the law into our own hands.”

“They (residents) beat gangsters, especially the young ones, when they commit a crime. They first let him (criminal) commit a crime. Then they call a group of people together. They go straight to where the criminal stays to teach him a lesson,” said Sir.

Theo Sir. Photo by Yazeed Kamaldien

“It’s not a good thing to beat the criminals but the police don’t do their job properly. There is nothing I can say about government. They are also criminals. I no longer trust them. They don’t deliver.”

Locals complained about crime at every stop and turn in the township. Frail, unemployed and aging Nolinethi Gqwetha said there “are lots of gangsters all over Nyanga. It’s not a good life.”

Nolinethi Gqwetha. Photo by Yazeed Kamaldien

Pumzile Nqabelele, a technician with the South African Navy, said “most people in Nyanga are unemployed and that might contribute to crime.”

“We know most of the criminals. But people are scared to report them to the police because it’s a risk pointing fingers. People also don’t want to go to the police station to report a criminal because they have done that before but only to find that three days later he (the alleged criminal) will be back again,” said Nqabelele.

Pumzile Nqabelele. Photo by Yazeed Kamaldien

He also said that Nyanga residents “need another police station.”

Iphendule Mdu, who sells vegetables at a street stall, agreed: “Government must employ more police. We want to see more police in the street.”

Western Cape provincial police commissioner Arno Lamoer reportedly said he hoped a second police station would open in Nyanga within the next three years.

Premier Helen Zille meanwhile issued a statement on Tuesday, two days before the crime statistics were released, saying that the police service in response to “on-going gang violence and murders has to date been inadequate” in the Western Cape.

She said that “84% of murder and attempted murder cases originating from five gang hotspots in the Western Cape end in acquittals.”

“There is an average of only 12,7% of murder cases ending in a conviction over a five-year period for Hanover Park, Lavender Hill, Elsies River, Manenberg, Bishop Lavis,” she said.

Zille said she has battled with President Jacob Zuma to “provide peace-keeping and visibility patrols (from the South African National Defence Force ranks) to relieve the police and enable them to undertake their investigative work” in the Western Cape. Zuma has to date dismissed her request.

“The Western Cape government and the City of Cape Town are doing everything, within our limited powers and more, to address the high instances of violent crime, including gang violence in the province,” said Zille.

“It is critical that the national government also plays the role required of them by the Constitution… We are putting pressure on national government departments to make more concerted efforts to combat gangsterism.”


Crime by numbers (Source: National Police Ministry)

Most crimes in Nyanga increased from April 1, 2011 to March 31 this year, compared to the same period the previous year.

Murder up from 198 to 233

Sexual crimes up from 368 to 398

Attempted murder up from 142 to 163

Assault with intention to inflict grievous bodily harm up from 990 to 1,046

Robbery with aggravating circumstances up from 623 to 879

Residential burglaries up from 484 to 570

Theft of vehicles up from 114 to 134

Illegal possession of firearms and ammunition from up 149 to 168

Drug-related crime up from 1436 to 1881

Carjacking up from 44 to 81

Robbery at residential property up from 50 to 99

Kidnapping up from 16 to 28


This article was published in City Press national weekly newspaper on Sunday, September 23, 2012.


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About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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