Somali gangs: Inside SA's hidden bloody war
Unreported to the police, bloody battles rage on our city's streets leaving an uncounted number dead
Gangs fighting within the Somali community is not affecting their community alone, but SA communities where people live and trade.
Somali Board of South Africa general secretary Abdirizak Ali Osman warned that they are aware of gangs operating in their community, where a number of people have been killed.
This comes on the heels of a shootout on busy Durban Road in Korsten, Port Elizabeth, where a young Somali man was shot and killed after an argument broke out, sparking fears of retribution.
CCTV footage obtained by Times Select (below) shows about five people shooting at one another. Mohammed Sallah, 25, was fatally wounded.
The incident, which happened just after 6pm on October 27, was captured by shop cameras as a man started shooting into the air before three others came out of the shop and retaliated.
Port Elizabeth police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu confirmed the shooting, saying no arrest has been made.
Osman said this was happening a lot in Cape Town and Gauteng, and has now spilled over into Port Elizabeth. Concern about the escalation of attacks has prompted intervention by the board.
“We are aware of gangs that are fighting within our Somali community and this has led to a number of deaths, more especially in Cape Town. Port Elizabeth was affected as well as Gauteng,” said Osman.
An insider at the Somali United Community of South Africa said the reason that Somalis killing one another is largely unreported is because it is dealt with internally through the paying of blood money.
“Back home in Somalia if you kill someone you pay what is called compensation; we call it blood money. This is now here in South Africa, and when one is killed, they don’t report that to the authorities. Instead, they meet to discuss compensation and if the family agrees, the money is paid to the grieving family,” the man said.
“The problem is our elders who are still using that system. In that area of Port Elizabeth we’ve lost about five or six Somalis who have been killed by their fellow countrymen. This is rarely reported to the police. The other killings are armed robberies in the period of 2015 and 2018, which have made this number to go up,” said the source.
John Abdulaye, a Somali trader in Port Elizabeth, confirmed this: “This blood money is a tradition we are used to and in this community they are killing each other freely as they know that they will pay and it will go no further. But this is another country; laws are different.”
He said the two prominent gangs are Rahanwayn and Mareehan. “When these two gangs clash, blood flows and families are left without their breadwinners.”
This is confirmed by other Somali residents, who revealed that there is a war between different factions in their community, which has led to the death of an unconfirmed number of Somalis in Port Elizabeth.
Businessman and spaza shop owner Mohamed Nur claims about 20 people have been killed in two years since 2016 in Port Elizabeth alone. “The Somali people are fighting each other; we are fighting in a foreign country. Since early 2016 to date about 20 people have died. Go to Malabar cemetery, you will find many Somalis buried there.”
Osman said they held a conference two months ago where a number of issues, including gangsterism, were discussed. “A meeting with the community elders was held and a number of issues were discussed and we are working with police authorities to resolves these issues. We can say now that the problem is not as bad as before.”
He would not talk about the details of the discussions. “We doing best to work with communities in resolving these problems we are facing.”
However, Naidu could not confirm other similar murders in Port Elizabeth: “Sallah was shot several times by the three suspects who fled the scene. The reason for the argument and fatal shooting is unknown at this stage and Mohammed Sallah succumbed to his injuries in hospital. The suspect is known and arrest is imminent.”