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Residents of crime-ridden Gauteng community take law into own hands

Residents of crime-ridden Gauteng community take law into own hands
Four people were killed in alleged mob justice attack on 19 May 2021 in the township of Zandspruit, Johannesburg. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle)

The Tedstoneville community in Ekurhuleni has been grappling with a surge in criminal activity, with some residents meting out brutal mob ‘justice’.

The community of Tedstoneville, in Ward 42, Ekurhuleni, is fed up with a spike in criminal activities, which they claim has happened since the Elsburg police station was relocated to Wadeville four years ago — about 50 minutes’ walk away.

The previous station, just 17 minutes’ walk away, was located on land filled with dolomite and was deemed unfit for human habitation. 

 

Crimes in the area include phone snatching, armed robberies, hijackings, house break-ins and cable theft.

A community leader, Prince Ralushae, said the lack of police visibility had left residents vulnerable to criminals.

“Ever since the move to Wadeville, police visibility is close to none. They only patrol in the factories and firms in Wadeville, but not in the neighbourhood,” Ralushae said.

Two teenage girls found murdered 

Tedstoneville, with a population of about 1,174, is adjacent to the informal settlements of Dukathole and Ramaphosa.

Members of the Tedstoneville community claim these areas are home to most of the criminals in their area.

On 9 September the Tedstoneville community was shaken by the discovery of the bodies of two teenage girls that had been dumped in the open veld opposite the Ramaphosa informal settlement.

Preliminary investigations by the SA Police Service indicate that both girls had been shot and were probably killed at other locations before being left in the veld. One of the victims was found naked.

No arrests have been made and the victims remain unidentified.

Private security steps in

A private security company called Graphite assists with patrolling services and is often the first to respond to emergency calls. 

A few of Graphite’s officers are in the community WhatsApp group where residents report crimes. Gary Basterfield, an operational executive at Graphite, said that they received more than a dozen texts and calls from the Tedstoneville community every day. 

Extrajudicial punishment

The community’s growing frustration has led to incidents of mob “justice”. An incident witnessed by Daily Maverick on 14 September involved community members detaining and beating up an alleged thief who had attempted to steal a phone from an elderly woman at a shop. 

Victor Nekhofhe, a community member at the scene, said, “In this area, the police are not working. Their service is very poor. When you call them during a house robbery, they respond after two hours.”

In another incident, on 9 September, community members apprehended two alleged thieves trying to rob a shop. They beat them up and a suspect died.

The police reported a similar incident, saying that a man was killed after the community caught him trying to rob a woman in Tedstoneville.

Another community member, Romeo Ruiters, said he experienced a harrowing home invasion in January when three armed men jumped into his yard and held him and his family hostage for hours while they stole their possessions. He said the incident happened at around 10pm. The police arrived at 3am.  

However, Elsburg SAPS said their statistics show a decrease in crimes and that their longest response time was 45 minutes. A police spokesperson said there were usually three cars patrolling Tedstoneville.

But Graphite’s Basterfield disputed these claims, saying that his staff members often had to wait for more than two hours for the police to arrive at a crime scene.

Dukathole Extension: A community captured by gangs

The neighbouring informal settlement Dukathole, in Ward 35, has also been plagued by a spike in criminal activities. 

Ntuthuzelo Mpambani, the ward councillor, said, “I am faced with serious crimes in my ward. Our crime issues emanate from a lack of resources from SAPS. The Germiston police station does not have sufficient vehicles to police our ward.”

Mpambani said that Dukathole, along with Germiston CBD, had been hit by a surge in armed robberies, murders, gang wars and criminals kidnapping people and forcing them to withdraw money from ATMs.

Mpambani said, “There are times when [the police] are visible, but we do not feel their presence. Their visibility does not amount to anything. We do not know what they are doing when they patrol.”

He said illegal miners had settled in the community and were involved in gang wars, in which innocent bystanders were shot or killed.

Peace Sbambane, a ward committee member, echoed the councillor’s words, saying that ambulances had stopped entering Dukathole because the personnel were robbed. He said the community had to organise a car to take ill and injured people to the outskirts of town where an ambulance would be waiting for them. 

Armed thieves target residents who leave their homes early to go to work or those who come back late. Sbambane said residents had stopped reporting crimes because the criminals were released the next day. DM

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