Police need to work hard to regain communities' trust by protecting residents from illegal activities apparently perpetrated by Operation Dudula members in some townships.
On Thursday we reported about a woman, believed to be a member of Operation Dudula, who was beaten up and almost necklaced by a mob in Alexandra, north of Johannesburg. This was after she and others had apparently tried to evict a 55-year-old widow, known only as MaMsibi, from her home on May 28 because she is a foreigner.
Angry residents held a meeting on Saturday to decide how they were going to protect the Zimbabwean woman who was married to a South African man, but were scared away from her home by people believed to be Dudula members who arrived allegedly armed with guns.
“They threw her belongings out on the streets and when the local boys helped her put her belongings back, these criminals returned to terrorise her again,” a neighbour who did not want to be identified for fear of being victimised, told this publication.
However, on Tuesday community members went on the hunt for MaMsibi's attackers and found the woman. She was assaulted and had tyres placed around her body when she was rescued.
She was arrested and taken to hospital under police guard. Police said she had been charged with malicious damage to property and public violence.
Where were the police when the widow was first evicted on May 28? And last Saturday when her neighbours gathered to try and assist her?
We are told her attackers on Saturday were armed and scared residents away, with no mention of police arriving on the scene to save the widow. Are police losing the battle against Dudula or are they just not taking them seriously?
Police must come up a strategy to ensure they respond on time to the illegal eviction of people from their homes because they are foreigners and that perpetrators are apprehended and face the full might of the law.
When community members feel vulnerable and not protected by the police they are likely to retaliate. It's not the right thing to do as taking the law into your hands is a crime.
But to avoid our communities degenerating into lawlessness police must protect residents and be seen to be in charge of the situation.
That a suspect was only arrested after the community members searched for, found and assaulted her is unacceptable.