Cape Flats police authorities say social media is to blame for sowing panic among communities already traumatised by gang violence.
Steenberg Police station commander, Colonel Jan Alexander, was reacting to a post which claimed that 20 people were shot in Lavender Hill last week.
The message which started circulating on WhatsApp on Friday and was shared on several Facebook pages, read: “Hi guys, please tell your staff/family to avoid Lavender Hill, 20 people being treated for gunshot wounds today alone. 8 DOA (dead on arrival)…stay clear of Prince George Drive in that vicinity.”
Earlier last week, a terrified primary school teacher in the area shared a post on Facebook about what’s it’s like to teach in the area: “Just after 2nd break the shooting started. My learners and myself were lying on the floor and some of my little ones were crying hysterically. Our school is right opposite the field which is the war zone…”
Another Facebook user then shared the post with the Daily Voice asking us to follow-up.
Alexander admits that while the area is volatile, the violence “is nowhere near as bad” as the posts suggest.
He did not want to give exact figures, only stating that one person was gunned down in the area.
Alexander, who was appointed station commander just over a year ago, says a turf war has been brewing between three gangs.
“The post that 20 people were shot is not the truth, we do not know what is the reason for this and who is behind it,” he says.
“The area is volatile and we have found there is infighting between gangs the Mongrels, The Fast Guns and the Funkies.
He says he did not have the resources to constantly monitor the 22 schools in his precinct.
“We do have sector vans that are doing patrols but we are also asking parents to become part of sub forums and structures.
“There is no way we can police if we do not have the support of the community.”
Community Policing Forum Chairperson, Lucinda Evans, says they are concerned that social media is creating more damage than helping.
“People need to be responsible when they place things on social media because it creates chaos,” she cautions.
“This impacts services to the area like ambulances and City of Cape Town services because they will fear coming into the area,” she says.
Chairman of the Mitchells Plain community Police Forum, Hanif Loonat, believes the post was put up by skollies: “I think it is gangsters who are trying to mislead us and take our focus off a [specific] area by placing things on social media.”
Jessica Shelver, spokesperson for Education MEC Debbie Schafer, says the Minister was to meet with Alexander and Community Safety MEC Dan Plato this week to discuss safety at schools.