Police tell residents to co-exist with gangsters as ex-cop reveals truths about tavern shootings


When darkness falls, residents of Ntuzuma township in ethekwini hide in their houses in fear of the unknown.

The sound of gunfire reverberating in their streets has become a daily occurrence.

One community member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, takes a deep sigh before telling us of the terror and anxiety experienced by township residents.

“There’s hardly a day which goes by without the terrifying sound of gunshots. Those who know the operations of the criminal gangs say they are into car hijackings, and the reason why they fire random shots is to keep other gangs at bay.

“They want to instil fear in the community not to interfere in their business,” he lamented.

Concerned residents said the Ntuzuma police station is under-resourced.

“Some police officers are brave enough to say that we must learn to coexist with the gangsters. One police officer said if we don’t bother criminals they will not bother us,” he said.

Fana Shabane, an ex-cop turned anti-crime activist, said tavern shootings are a common feature bedevilling the township in the south of ethekwini. He mentioned one problematic tavern known to locals as Malambane, saying at least three shootings a year take place there.

“Last year alone four people were shot and killed sitting inside the tavern. All the shootings were drive-by killings. The drinking place remains open, despite concerns from the residents,” said Shabane.

He attributed the killings to gang turf wars over drugs such as whoonga and cocaine.

“Another problem we have is that young boys are quitting school and carrying guns. They are engaging in criminal activities, terrorising residents. Foreign nationals are also exploiting the gap in police visibility to commit crimes such as hijackings,” said Shabane.

The concerns raised by the Ntuzuma residents come in the wake of last week’s bloodbath in which 19 people lost their lives in two separate tavern killings.

Two gunmen entered Samkelisiwe Restaurant in Sweetwaters in Pietermaritzburg and randomly shot at patrons.

Four people lost their lives while several others sustained gunshot wounds.

Hours earlier, gun-wielding killers fired shots on unsuspecting patrons at Mdlalose’s tavern in Nomzamo Park, Orlando East, killing 16 people.

Criminologists have warned that the ongoing tavern killings

are a security threat, adding that the shootings also exposed the lack of police intelligence on the ground.

Well-known academic and violence researcher Professor Mary de Haas said the proliferation of illegal guns complicated the war against organised shootings.

“Most of these guns are solicited from the black market and they are also supplied by fly-by-night security companies. These are dangerous weapons such as semi-automatic rifles, which are mostly used in these mass shootings and taxi wars,” she said.

“So the problem is huge and it needs well-trained police intelligence services.”

The sentiments were echoed by University KwazuluNatal-based criminologist Prof Nirmala Gopal, who said vulnerable communities such as those in townships and rural areas bear the brunt of the activities of brazen criminals.

“South Africa has evolved into a criminal laboratory with multiple serious crimes warranting simultaneous attention … we as citizens are immensely vulnerable. The alcohol turf war is a high possibility. The modus operandi is akin to that of drug wars,” said Gopal.

Kwazulu-natal police commissioner Lieutenant-general Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi called for strict laws for taverns located in townships, such as prohibiting them from operating at night.

Meanwhile, the provincial liquor authority has shut down the Pietermaritzburg tavern, which is now a crime scene.

According to the body, which issues and regulates liquor licences, the tavern was closed on the grounds that it breached security protocols.

– Sunday world

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