Calm after brothels, drug dens set on fire
Rustenburg braces for more unrest as hitmen are called in
THINGS appeared to be calm in Rustenburg yesterday as police patrolled the area where unrest broke out on Wednesday and six buildings were torched. But foreign nationals feared that further violence may break out during the night and today.
While it was business as usual for those not looted and torched, foreign nationals remained tense after many had lost their livelihoods when their businesses were set alight. They were unsure what to expect next.
A high police presence remained in 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 expected to make their way to Rustenburg today to assist taxi drivers with “cleaning” the area of drug dealers.
This comes after Rustenburg came to a standstill on Wednesday afternoon when an angry mob set alight buildings that are believed to be drug dens and brothels.
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 so they could get their next 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 alleged that it was then that the raids of businesses owned by foreign nationals began.
Aubrey Malinga, a taxi owner, and committee members of Boitekong Taxi Association, said issues of theft and taxi operators being robbed and attacked were not new.
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. Due to the attacks, two taxi operators had died and a taxi owner had been admitted to hospital, where he 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 bushes. He later died in hospital and will be buried tomorrow.
Malinga said the other operator was attacked and murdered in November.
“Taxi owner Lucky Maulane, 44, is currently in hospital after he was attacked on Saturday,” Malinga said.
Maulana’s son Oscar said his father’s attackers hit him with stones and he was mostly hurt on the head and jaw.
“My father is badly hurt. He cannot walk and all his teeth have been taken out because his jaw is messed up,” he said.
Malinga said the reason behind the unrest was that a 17-year-old girl told operators she had been raped by a man named Rasta. It was due to the girl’s claims that operators made their way to a house in Noord where the man was found.
He 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 added: “All hell broke loose when the community saw that the drug dealers, who were expected 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 around 5pm on Wednesday, and employees at nearby businesses said they saw a group of angry people making their way to various building in the CBD. Minutes later, they heard windows breaking and then flames and smoke filled the sky.
However, some foreign nationals whose businesses were burnt were adamant their workplaces were not run by druglords. Among buildings burnt was a tyre shop owned by a man from Uganda.
An employee at the shop, Nandos Makanza, said the community had burnt the wrong business.
“I understand their concerns but we only deal with tyres here, nothing else. Right now I don’t know where I’m gonna 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 guest houses owned by foreign nationals.
Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone said six buildings had been torched but no arrests had been made.
Rustenburg executive mayor Mpho Khunou said they were going to close all the brothels in the city.
He said: “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, as well at the central business district, particularly at the taxi rank.”
Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula condemned the people who decided to take the law into their own hands and the threat to continue doing so.
ON PATROL: Police officers monitor the Rustenburg CBD where six buildings, believed to be brothels, owned by drug dealers, were burnt by angry community members.
TORCHED: One of the six buildings, believed to be brothels owned by drug dealers, which were set alight by local residents.