DRUGS, BROTH­ELS WAR

Rustenburg calm af­ter tur­moil

Pretoria News - - FRONT PAGE - VIRGILATTE GWANGWA virgilatte.gwangwa@inl.co.za

CALM ap­peared to have been re­stored in Rustenburg yes­ter­day as po­lice pa­trolled the area where un­rest broke out on Wed­nes­day. Six build­ings were torched, but for­eign na­tion­als feared more vi­o­lence might break out last night and to­day.

While it was busi­ness as usual for busi­nesses which were not looted and torched, for­eign na­tion­als re­mained tense af­ter many had lost their liveli­hoods when their busi­nesses were set alight.

A high po­lice pres­ence re­mained on the streets, with of­fi­cers pa­trolling the cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict where build­ings had been de­stroyed. They also kept a close eye on the taxi rank.

How­ever, there were still threats that ink­abi (hitmen) from Eastern Cape and Joburg were pos­si­bly on their way to Rustenburg to as­sist taxi driv­ers with clean­ing up the area from drug deal­ers.

This comes af­ter Rustenburg came to a stand­still on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon when an an­gry mob set build­ings alight which they be­lieved were drug dens and broth­els.

Speak­ing to the Pre­to­ria News, mem­bers of the com­mu­nity said the un­rest started af­ter taxi op­er­a­tors de­cided they had had enough of nyaope users steal­ing their car ra­dios and wheel caps just to get a fix.

They said op­er­a­tors started to tar­get nyaope users and forced them to point out their drug deal­ers which were said to be for­eign na­tion­als. It was then that raids on busi­nesses owned by for­eign na­tion­als be­gan.

Aubrey Malinga, taxi owner and com­mit­tee mem­bers at Boitekong Taxi As­so­ci­a­tion, said is­sues of theft and taxi op­er­a­tors be­ing robbed and at­tacked were not new. How­ever, he blamed the at­tacks on a lo­cal group of gang­sters known as the SVK. He said the group tar­geted taxi op­er­a­tors and robbed them of their money and any­thing valu­able.

Ow­ing to the at­tacks, two taxi op­er­a­tors had died and a taxi owner was ad­mit­ted to hospi­tal and was fight­ing for his life.

He said one of the op­er­a­tors from Son­dela, Lebogang Motl­ha­bane, 32, dis­ap­peared on De­cem­ber 15 and was found barely alive 12 days later in the bush. He died later in hospi­tal. He will be buried to­mor­row.

Malinga said the other op­er­a­tor was at­tacked and mur­dered last Novem­ber.

“Taxi owner Lucky Maulane, 44, is in hospi­tal af­ter he was at­tacked on Satur­day,” Malinga said.

Maulana’s son, Os­car, said his fa­ther’s at­tack­ers used stones to hit him and he was mostly hurt on the head and jaw. “My fa­ther is badly hurt, and at the mo­ment he can­not walk. All his teeth have been taken out be­cause his jaw is messed up,” he said.

Os­car, 18, said his fa­ther was get­ting bet­ter. He was now able to walk a bit. Even so, Malinga said one of the the rea­sons be­hind the un­rest was that a 17-year-old girl had told taxi op­er­a­tors she had been raped by man named “Rasta”.

It was be­cause of the girl’s claims that op­er­a­tors made their way to a house in No­ord where the man was found.

Malinga said they seized four peo­ple with drugs in their pos­ses­sion. Among them was a po­lice of­fi­cer and two for­eign na­tion­als.

“When we found them, we put them in an en­closed area where we nor­mally put boxes at the taxi rank.

“The po­lice came and we left mat­ters in their hands. Min­utes later, the K9 po­lice di­vi­sion came to the rank and asked what was hap­pen­ing. While in talks with them, mem­bers of the SAPS Public Or­der Polic­ing started us­ing tear­gas on us,” he said.

Malinga said: “All hell broke loose when the com­mu­nity saw that the drug deal­ers who were sup­posed to be in jail were in fact walk­ing free on the streets.

“It was af­ter that dis­cov­ery that com­mu­nity mem­bers got an­gry and went to build­ings they knew op­er­ated as broth­els and were be­lieved to be drug dens,” he said.

The un­rest started at around 5pm on Wed­nes­day and em­ploy­ees work­ing at nearby busi­nesses said they saw a group of an­gry peo­ple mak­ing their way to var­i­ous build­ings in the CBD.

Min­utes later they heard win­dows break­ing and then flames and clouds of smoke filled the sky.

How­ever, some for­eign na­tion­als whose busi­nesses were burnt were adamant their work­places were not run by druglo­rds

Among the build­ings burnt was a tyre shop owned by a man from Uganda.

An em­ployee at the shop, Nan­dos Makanza, said the com­mu­nity burnt the wrong busi­ness. “I un­der­stand their con­cerns but we only deal with tyres here, noth­ing else. I don’t know where I’m go­ing to get money to feed my fam­ily now that the busi­ness which had put food on the ta­ble has been torched,” he said. Build­ings torched were mostly guest­houses owned by for­eign na­tion­als.

Bri­gadier Sa­bata Mokg­wabone said six build­ings had been torched, but no ar­rests had been made yet.

Rustenburg ex­ec­u­tive mayor Mpho Khu­nou said they were go­ing to close all the broth­els in Rustenburg. “We closed a num­ber of broth­els in Rustenburg east in Novem­ber and we have planned to in­ten­sify the work fo­cus­ing on the east and north and the cen­tral busi­ness dis­trict, par­tic­u­larly at the taxi rank.”

Khu­nou vowed that from next week, they will be clos­ing all broth­els. “One of the things that these drug traf­fick­ers do is that when you fo­cus on the one area they move to an­other area. We will be in­ten­si­fy­ing our in­tel­li­gence so that there is no part of Rustenburg where they can hide,” he said.

Khu­nou met with taxi as­so­ci­a­tion com­mit­tees to find ways of work­ing to­gether with the mu­nic­i­pal­ity and the SAPS to find so­lu­tions to the prob­lems. May­oral spokesper­son An­drew Seome said the com­mit­tee agreed to work to­gether with the mu­nic­i­pal­ity and mem­bers of the po­lice to fight all the so­cial ills in their com­mu­ni­ties.

He said they were com­mit­ted to do­ing so peace­fully, with­out break­ing any laws.

The Min­is­ter of Po­lice, Fik­ile Mbalula, con­demned the peo­ple who took the law into their own hands and made threats that they would con­tinue with the vi­o­lence

“No mat­ter how jus­ti­fied peo­ple might think they are, tak­ing the law into their own hands does not make them dif­fer­ent to the peo­ple they ac­cuse of be­ing crim­i­nals. Peo­ple must know we are a demo­cratic state, with com­pe­tent in­sti­tu­tions that can re­solve all con­cerns,” Mbalula said.

He urged the po­lice to root out acts of crim­i­nal­ity in com­mu­ni­ties, in par­tic­u­lar broth­els where the fu­ture of young women was de­stroyed. He in­structed po­lice to bring or­der in the area and work with the peo­ple to fight crime.

PICTURES: OUPA MOKOENA/ANA

One of the build­ings which was set on fire in Rustenburg.

Po­lice of­fi­cers mon­i­tor­ing the Rustenburg CBD. Six build­ings be­lieved to be broth­els and owned by drug deal­ers were burnt by an­gry com­mu­nity mem­bers.

PIC­TURE: ANA

A build­ing on fire in Rustenburg on Wed­nes­day night.

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