4 minute read
22 Mar 2019
8:05 am

Pietermaritzburg community gripped by fear as witnesses and police are murdered


The local police appear totally under-equipped and demotivated to even begin to deal with the crisis.

A spate of murders, including the killing of witnesses in important cases in Imbali and Greater Edendale, Pietermaritzburg, has put the competency of the Plessislaer police station under scrutiny. Photo: Nompendulo Ngubane/GroundUp

A spate of murders, including the killing of witnesses in important cases, in Imbali and Greater Edendale, Pietermaritzburg, has put the competency of the Plessislaer police station under scrutiny. Residents complain about the inefficiency of the precinct and the way cases are being handled. The community has called upon Minister of Police Bheki Cele to intervene.

A recent multiple murder has gripped the community with fear. Senior traffic officer Sifiso Gwala, of Imbali Unit 2, was shot and killed along with two of his friends, Nhlanhla Zibula and Nathi Zondi, on 9 March. They died at the scene. A third friend who was also shot, Mfundo Mtshae, is fighting for his life in hospital.

Thandeka Gwala, the daughter of the slain officer, said the family was traumatised. She said her father was watching a soccer match in an outside building with his friends when they were shot.

“It was raining heavily and one could hardly hear … My mother heard many gunshots from the outside room. She took a few minutes before she went to check. When she opened the door … my father and the other two were already dead. One of them was still alive. He was then taken to hospital. That friend is the only one who survived,” she said.

Last month, ANC member in the Moses Mabhida region Mhlengi Khumalo was gunned down in KwaPata at night while alone in his house watching TV. His murder followed the murder of an ANC former ward councillor Musawenkosi “Qashana” Mchunu in May 2018. Arrests followed both murders.

Cele has visited the Plessislaer police station twice. In February, while visiting the families of victims, he told GroundUp he was aware that the community was unhappy with the station.

“As I’m visiting these families, they are telling me that the police are aware of things happening in the community areas. Residents are saying police are not doing anything,” said Cele. “I will be coming back for my third visit at the police station. I know what to do in that police station and I’m working on it … The aim is to try to fix things. We want residents to be able to work with the police station.”

He said a task team would work jointly with the Plessislaer police station to find the perpetrators behind Gwala’s murder.

In May 2017 the Pietermaritzburg community marched against crime. Residents said many cases opened at Plessislaer police station were not attended to.

In November 2018, the community marched to the police station. A Caluza resident, who asked not to be named, said, “I joined the march in November because my family was saddened with the way my niece’s case was handled. She was raped and left under the bridge. Nothing was done ever since. We reported the case and we were given a case number. My niece knew the people who raped her. She shared the information with the police. Nothing was done. We have told ourselves that they won’t do anything. They are quick to respond on petty cases and ignore the serious ones.”

In 2016 Plessislaer appeared among the 63 precincts countrywide that had the most unresolved serious crimes.

In 2018, there were 104 murder cases opened.

A police officer at the station, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “The whole police station has three police vans … One police officer has to look after so many people. The precinct is short of investigative officers. The computers have aged and not been upgraded. They are very slow. They make the working process a snail’s pace … Some of our members retire or resign but no new police are being employed. The state resources such as cellphones are given to the managers. The police at grassroots level are isolated … the ones dealing with the community – but the managers receive the resources.”

“We need police from the outside to deal with these murders. We are scared for our lives. These murders are done by people who are known murderers. They might also kill us. We need members from Crime Prevention to work 24 hours.

“We are also angered about the conditions we are working under.

“Cele’s task team is only getting promotions. It doesn’t help us at all. They should be visible in our area to prevent crime. We are tired,” said the officer.

Community Police Forum chairperson Sfiso Mavundla said the delays dealing with reported cases was worrying. He said as the community they had lost hope in the police.

“Our witnesses are not protected and therefore the community is scared. We have about seven witnesses who have been killed … As the community we cannot sit back and watch the perpetrators doing as they please. We are requesting that the leadership sits down with the police staff. They must intervene by discussing with them the challenges they face,” said Mavundla.

He also said that the recent killings in Pietermaritzburg are done by people who are known to the community.

“The community knows those people, but they are scared to report them. They fear that they might be killed. We have had witnesses killed in this town. People are scared. The minister should call an Imbizo to hear what the community has to say. He should also give members of SAPS a platform to share their frustrations,” said Mavundla.

Republished from GroundUp

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