Shocked and angry residents of Alexandra are afraid of walking the streets of their township, following the murders of six people in different places in the area on Thursday.
A resident, Nhlamulo Ntuli, said although crime was always rife in Alex, the recent violent spree was traumatic, as an unknown gang of at least four armed suspects were robbing and shooting people in the area.
“I’m working nightshifts and my family suggested I quit my job because I’m at risk of losing my life while coming back from work,” he said. “During the day people are mugged, pupils are raped on their way from school and now walking on the street is not safe.
“But neither is locking yourself in the house because they will find you.”
Seven people have been arrested following the spate of shootings in the area, and 10 cellphones, a gun and empty magazines recovered.
According to Police Minister Bheki Cele, the arrests were made through collaboration between community members and police. “All those arrested are from this township. That’s why we, as a community, need to discuss how children are killing other children from the same area,” Cele said.
He confirmed the arrested suspects were between the ages of 23 and 33 and noted the motive behind the killings pointed to robbery.
Samuel Mdluli and a number of other residents vowed to hunt down the murderers and said living in fear was no longer an option.
Mdluli said the community was either protecting the gang members or being threatened to keep quiet. “But they know who has been killing our children and terrorising our community and until we identify and deal with those particular people, we will live in fear.
“And they will keep blaming nyaope boys, but they know them and until those boys kill their loved ones, that’s when reality will kick in and we won’t be able to help them. We need to wake up and take action against those boys before we all die.”
Police yesterday raided Nobuhle Hostel, following an alleged gun war on Thursday night. Hostel dweller Noxolo Sambulo said a number of people from the hostel who were known for threatening residents with guns were arrested.
“[On Thursday] night and [on Friday] morning, around 6am, we heard several gunshots, only to find out people were robbed and shot. I heard on radio that people died and some were in hospital fighting for their lives,” she said.
South African Police Service Gauteng commissioner Lieutenant-General Elias Mawela said police have opened five cases of murder and five of attempted murder and armed robbery.
They were also concerned about the proliferation of firearms in Alex and operations to recover weapons were continuing.
The Inkatha Freedom Party condemned the “latest round of gun killings which, worryingly, seem to have become a growing trend in and around Gauteng townships”. It urged government to redouble efforts to prevent crime.