A prosecutor has been assigned to work exclusively on gangster-related court cases, and as far as possible, cases involving gangsters would be referred to the Regional and High Courts, a Government spokesman told members of Port Elizabeth’s Helenvale community and police yesterday.
Ward 13 Councillor, Nico du Plessis said in an interview today that the Eastern Cape Government Safety and Security Portfolio Committee said at a report-back meeting in the Helenvale Resource Centre yesterday that the new legal measures had been implemented in response to requests from the Helenvale community for a special gangster court to expedite gang-related court cases.
He said the committee, together with the Safety and Security MEC had visited Helenvale about three months ago and that yesterday’s meeting was a follow-up.
The committee said that the prosecutor assigned to gangster-related cases would advise investigating officers in order to ensure that criminals were convicted. Where gangster-related cases were heard in the Magistrate’s Court, it was planned that advocates would represent the State.
Du Plessis said the legal developments sounded positive although the community would still prefer a dedicated gangster court to prevent long delays before gangster cases were heard, while suspects were released on bail only to be involved in more gang activities. He said the community would monitor the situation.
He said that while there had been a slight reduction in violent crime in the area in recent times, churches in the area had suspended midweek evening prayer meetings because people were too scared to be on the streets at night.
He said SA Police Services Mount Road Cluster Commander, Major General Dawie Rabie, had told the meeting that an estimated 250 gangsters were responsible for the violent crime in a group of Northern Areas suburbs that was home to some 600 000 people.
He said that the meeting, which was attended by about 100 people, including church and community leaders and police, told the committee that local police response times to crime calls were woefully inadequate due to the fact that they did not have enough crime response vehicles.
The committee said they would report the community’s concerns to local and national Government and report back later.