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‘We will beat, burn criminals’

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Residents' pleas for help fall on deaf ears

EASY TARGETS: Homevale residents have threatened to take the law into their own hands to deal with criminal elements in the area. Picture: Danie van der Lith

TEMPERS are reaching boiling point and residents have threatened to meet out mob justice at the Homevale informal settlement, which they say is riddled with crime and infested with drug addicts and thieves.

Community members yesterday threatened to set criminals alight so that they could suffer an agonising death.

“Our pleas for help have fallen on deaf ears. We will unclothe these criminals, beat and kill them because we cannot carry on living like this.”

One resident threatened to burn criminals with acid if he caught them inflicting any harm on his family.

“I cannot wait until I am stabbed or murdered before any action is taken. The police promised to send a patrol every two hours but not one vehicle has passed by since. We have approached the councillor as well as the police and Operation Wanya Tsotsi but they have turned a blind eye to our plight,” he said.

Others residents stated that criminal suspects should be severely injured so that other criminals could witness first hand how they would be dealt with.

The community members said that a group of about 12 young men had gone door to door with a bunch of keys to try and open the locks on the doors of residents’ homes.

They also indicated that suspicious characters were claiming to be police officials.

“They break into our properties while we are asleep and help themselves to anything they want. Some of us work night shifts and we are afraid to leave our children unattended because we have become easy targets.

“We cannot allow the children to go to the shops or play outside, for fear that they will be kidnapped or raped. There are many single mothers staying here.”

The residents added that the portable public toilets were littered with condoms, drugs and candles while the toilets were also overflowing with sewage.

“We are too afraid to relieve ourselves at night because gangsters are using the toilets as their havens. We could be raped and killed so we make use of buckets that we empty out into the veld.”

A woman, who is four months pregnant, stated that a group of men threw a beer bottle at her while they were loitering outside her shanty on Tuesday night.

“It is pitch dark so I was not able to recognise if the men were from around here. I told them ‘voetsek’ and demanded to know what they were doing there. Had I not ducked, I would have been injured by the flying bottle.

“The men, who cover their faces with hoodies, went next door and they stole R300 cash and my neighbour’s cellphone.”

The residents stated that the suspects pretended to sell soup bones at all hours of the day and night. “Meanwhile, they are monitoring everyone who leaves their premises.”

A resident, Llewellyn Smith, indicated that a neighbourhood watch would be established and anyone who did not belong in the area would have to leave by 10pm.

“If they do not leave, we will have to resort to taking more drastic steps. The unoccupied shacks that are being used by drug lords, users and criminals will be torn down. We haven’t slept for days as we are patrolling the area at night to chase away intruders who do not belong here. We believe that the troublemakers are coming here from outside the area to commit crime and smoke drugs,” said Smith.

Another resident, Sue Ellen Klaas, pointed out that they had felt safer before they were relocated to the area.

“None of us chose to come here. Although we had an illegal electricity connection at least we had power and we could sleep peacefully at night. Council has not delivered on any of its promises and now no one wants to listen to our troubles.”

She also called for the ward councillor to be replaced. “He is not doing anything to assist us.”

The ward councillor, Clifford Lewis, stated that he had met with the station commander at the Roodepan police station yesterday.

“I proposed that neighbourhood patrols be conducted in conjunction with the community policing forum. I have also requested council to set up a high mast light as there is extremely low visibility after dark,” said Lewis.

He added that a proposal to set up a mobile police van was abandoned as police officials felt unsafe manning the vehicle if they were alone.

The spokesperson for Operation Wanya Tsotsi (OWT), Pantsi Obusitse, stated that the crime-fighting organisation would attend a community meeting, scheduled to take place on Tuesday next week, along with the police and the ward councillor to address the issue of increasing crime levels.

“We are willing to assist but the community as a whole must first give consent, so that we can work together to eradicate crime that is spiralling out of control in all informal settlements.”

He said that OWT had its hands full trying to curb ever increasing incidents of housebreaking and theft.

“There have been multiple incidents where thieves break into the shacks while the people are asleep.”

Obusitse added that they had advised the community not to take the law into their own hands.

“They are frustrated and we referred them to the police as we were advised by the SAPS not to take over their duties and responsibilities. Crime prevention operations must be co-ordinated by the police.”

Sol Plaatje Municipality office manager, George Mosiane, encouraged all members of the community to report criminal acts to the police.

“We will take the matter up with the police sector responsible for Sol Plaatje Municipality through our stakeholder forum,” said Mosiane.

He urged all communities to be vigilant and to report any suspicious looking individuals or vehicles to the police.

“We remain committed in our endeavour to ensure that all our residents are safe and secure and will make resources, both within the municipality and other state institutions, available to achieve this goal.”