IN a tense 48 hours, police have been immersed in gang turf wars and drug busts, with one incident leading to a multi-vehicle high-speed chase with a helicopter in pursuit of a fleeing suspect on a busy Cape Town highway.
Like a scene straight from a high-octane Hollywood blockbuster, a helicopter and police cars pursued a white bakkie down the N7, along Marine Drive before racing onto the N1 where they eventually opened fire, shooting at the tyres to bring the chase to a halt near the Foreshore.
The driver of the bakkie, identified as Terence Burchell, a wealthy Constantia businessman, died at the scene after he tried to swallow several small bags of pure cocaine. He was only wearing a pair of boxer shorts.
A source on the scene said the 40-year-old man was seen stuffing his mouth with what appeared to be cocaine. “He overdosed and died on the scene.”
Watch: Police pursue a white bakkie onto the N1, on Friday, where they opened fire, shooting at the tyres to bring the chase to a halt near the Foreshore. The driver a wealthy Constantia man, died at the scene after he swallowed small bags of cocaine. pic.twitter.com/DrPTgA6fBD— Weekend Argus (@WeekendArgus) January 23, 2022
Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joseph Swartbooi confirmed the incident but added that it was subject to an Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) probe as the man died in police custody.
Ipid spokesperson Grace Langa said: “On Friday, at about 16.30 Piketberg SAPS members spotted a vehicle that was reported missing with the driver in Kirstenhof, Cape Town.
“When the members attended to the bakkie the driver drove away at high speed and when they tried to stop him he drove faster.
“He was then chased all the way down the N7. When the bakkie was driving recklessly in the oncoming traffic lane police called for backup.
“The Cape Town Flying Squad gave chase but the driver failed to stop, shots were fired at the tyres but the driver kept on driving with damaged tyres.”
Eventually the vehicle came to a halt. “Police approached the vehicle. As they opened the door, they noticed that the driver had about seven small containers with white powder and he quickly put the powder in his mouth.”
She said as they tried to arrest him his mouth started to foam and blood dripped from his nose.
Police called for medical assistance. They tried to resuscitate him but he was declared dead . “The deceased is a 40 year old from Constantia.”
In other parts of Cape Town police and the City’s law enforcement agencies were called out when eight people were injured in two separate shootings in Elsies River and one incident in Eerste River on Friday.
Police operations also saw three firearms confiscated during three separate operations and led to the arrest of five people, including three teenagers.
The group is facing charges of possession of firearms and ammunition.
“Once charged the suspects are expected to make their court appearances in the Atlantis, Robertson and Blue Downs Magistrates courts respectively on the mentioned charges,” said Swartbooi.
Police have reportedly seen a spike in suspected gang-related warfare as well as the number of guns confiscated.
According to sources within the Anti-Gang Unit and the City’s law enforcement services, officers have been responding to about seven shooting incidents across the Cape Flats on particularly “bad days”, and three incidents on normal days this month.
A crime expert warned the financial stress of “Januworry” did not only affect ordinary citizens but apparently gangsters too, and had contributed to an increase in violence among feuding gangs.
On Friday afternoon a man was stabbed outside the Promenade Mall in Mitchells Plain. He ran into the packed shopping centre where he died. The incident was believed to be gang-related.
Stellenbosch University criminologist Guy Lamb said the spike in gun violence could be attributed to the financial constraints on those coming off the festive season.
“It is a standard thing in South Africa to see an increase in violent crime from the end of December into early January,” he said.
“There are many factors that add to this increase, including the economic climate. Money becomes less available in January and this goes for gangsters too, so they go out during this month to reclaim territory so that they can control the area and sell drugs. And reclaiming the territory often leads to shooting incidents.”
Lamb said the increase in the confiscation of guns, coupled with guns that disappear, also explained why there had been so many shootings in the past two weeks.
“We saw law enforcement agencies making a considerable number of arrests in connection with the confiscation of guns and ammunition, and then we also saw how nearly 160 guns disappeared from the Norwood police station,” he said.
“This means that these weapons are available … ”
Lamb explained that just like any other person a gang boss, gangster or merchant had to pay school fees, buy food and provide, and just like anybody else January was a headache.
Mayco member for Safety and Security JP Smith said between October and December, the City of Cape Town’s security agencies confiscated 46 firearms, 384 rounds of ammunition, and 60 imitation firearms.
While statistics for January were yet to be compiled, Smith said security agencies confiscated between 20 and 30 guns each month.
Smith believed that procuring a new gun-detection system to replace ShotSpotter in Cape Town’s gang-riddled areas was the answer to the problem. “We can see by the number of confiscations that we have an increase in gang violence.
“However, we cannot give a definite number because we do not have the ShotSpotter anymore,” he said.
To help stem the shootings, Smith told Weekend Argus that they were in the process of getting a new tender with a larger footprint for the reintroduction of the ShotSpotter.
“The old ShotSpotter covered 7km² , the new one will cover 35km². This will help us also pinpoint when, what time and where the shots were fired.”
Last year, local government MEC Anton Bredell said the ShotSpotter was no longer in use after the R31.8 million contract came to an end in 2019, three years after it had been procured.