Calm after broth­els, drug dens set on fire

Rusten­burg braces for more un­rest as hit­men are called in

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - VIRGILATTE GWANGWA virgilatte.gwangwa@inl.co.za

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.

PIC­TURES: OUPA MOKOENA/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY/ANA

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.

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