Gunshot wounds is one of the biggest causes of the increase in spinal cord injuries in the Western Cape, specifically on the Cape Flats. 

After the latest crime statistics released recently, I was particularly interested in the amount of gunshot victims and young people that are murdered in the never-ending gang war. Numerous news bulletins are peppered with stories of innocent victims caught in the crossfire. Some of them only stresses the number of people killed and ignores the number of people that are seriously injured.

On Tuesday, 2 July 2013, a 16-year-old boy was shot dead in Renoster Road and a 12-year-old girl was injured during crossfire in the same road one day later. This is how the story read in the Argus newspaper with more facts about heavy police presence, random shooting incidences and a call on anyone with information to come forward.

The Daily Maverick contained an article on 26 May 2014 that read, “Gangsterism in the Western Cape is rife. In 2013, 12% of the 2,580 murders in the province were gang-related (2nd behind arguments turned violent), according to the South African Police Service. This is an 86% increase from 2012.”

SAPA reported that the provincial police commissioner, Arno Lamoer said this year that the murder figures show a 12.8% increase. He was quoted as saying “It’s important to note that...18% of the murders are gang-related. That means when children are killed in the crossfire, and when gangsters kill one another.” Another fact of the crime stats is that attempted murder in the Western Cape increased by 2.5%, with a third of the total being gang-related.

These are alarming figures and should be taken very seriously because it has a negative effect on the province that is a top tourist destination. The Cape flats are located not very far from the world famous landmarks of the area and the problem of gangsterism is not solved yet, nor is it getting the attention that it requires. It is a complex problem whereby gang life is perceived by many as a way out of poverty, a safe haven and protection from violence and a network of crime in the lap of luxury.

All the tell-tale signs are there that this is clearly not the case. But there is also many factors that contribute towards making the contrary looks like the truth. The slow pace of conviction by the justice system and corruption does not assist in deterring the increasing number of gang members. It needs a dedicated approach to address the scourge of social ills that attract our youth to the perceived life of a gangster. An increasing amount of incidents of gunshots are recorded in our communities where people with disabilities have to co-exist with able-bodied people. Imagine how difficult it must be to dodge bullets in a wheelchair. However, the perpetrators of these violent crimes have no regard for life, let alone for a person with a disability.

Yet all is not doom and gloom. The government of the Western Cape and the City of Cape Town are employing innovative ways of addressing this problem. One ingenious measure is called ShotSpotter. This system is relying on world-class technology to combat the fight against gangsterism. It’s piloting a system that can detect gunshots within half a metre from where they were fired. This sound detecting system can distinguish between firecrackers and the real thing and it triangulates the sound to determine exactly where it originates. It can then be used to direct police to the source. Interestingly has it recorded 241 gunshots in the area where it is deployed over a three week period!

This system is all good and well, but it is reactive. A more proactive approach is needed in the fight against gangsterism and gunshots that causes spinal cord injuries. The QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA) supports all efforts that will combat the causes of spinal cord injuries and will continue to strive to improve the lives of quadriplegics and paraplegics everywhere in South Africa.