Police have brought calm, residents say
The police patrols which have become a common feature in Nomzamo settlement in Soweto where 16 people were shot and killed at a tavern last week are yet to result in any arrest.
Contrary to the overzealous and hyped up threats of “Amaberete going door-to-door searching for guns” as announced by police minister Bheki Cele outside Emazulwini Tavern on Monday, patrols have seemed to be nothing more but a sideshow for the media.
Cele deployed dozens of officers from the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD), SAPS and Tactical Response Team on Monday after the shooting at Emazulwini on Sunday morning. Cele unleashed his foot soldiers onto the streets of Nomzamo like he has done in Diepsloot and Kliptown when similar fatal incidents have occurred.
On Wednesday night Sowetan spent two hours following a convoy of 13 police vehicles as they meandered the pothole-ridden streets of the township, which has not had lights for more than three weeks due to cable theft.
The officers mostly drove slowly on the main roads and would, in between, stop and search any group of males they found loitering about, even those who had queued outside one spaza shop. Those stopped in their tracks would normally raise their hands and allow officers, at least those who cared to get out of the vehicle, to frisk them. Many chose to remain in the car and watch their colleagues at work.
The convoy mainly moved along the main road, leaving the side roads that lead into the mostly RDP homes. The Sowetan team would find out later that they did so because the roads are so tiny that it would require them to go on foot to access the area.
Unlike Monday night when the operation was launched in front of TV cameras and cars were stopped and searched, on Wednesday night no motorists were bothered.
Faces of tragedy: Families of Soweto tavern shooting victims describe devastating loss
The families of the people who lost their lives at the Mdlalose tavern shooting in Soweto are still reeling from the loss of their loved ones. They participated in a prayer service on Tuesday July 12 and began making burial arrangements.
According to police spokesperson Col Dimakatso Sello, police will continue to maintain a strong presence in the area but did not say for how long. She said no weapons had been confiscated or arrests made since Monday.
“We are conducting a high visibility operation which includes patrolling, vehicle checkpoints and stop and searches. The police can only go search a house if there is suspicion of criminal activities in the said premises or there is a search warrant,” said Sello.
Residents were pleased with the increased police visibility, saying it would help reduce the number of unlicensed firearms circulating in the area.
South Africa’s rising gun violence crimes has been attributed to the smuggling of high caliber guns like AK-47s. The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime reports that there are about 3.8 million unregistered illegal firearms in circulation in South Africa, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. Illicit guns and ammunition are a currency in the underworld of gangs, mass shootings and wildlife crime.
“It’s pleasing to see police cars driving on our streets. I have not heard any gunshots this week and I hope the situation remains like this forever. Our area has been a no-go zone for a very long time but we have seen a bit of improvement over the past two days,” said Orlando resident Siphamandla Phiri.
Another resident, Nomthandazo Mnyembane, said the police needed to be thorough with their operation.
“The police must go patrol inside the shacks. That is where the problem is. Driving around the main streets will not solve anything. The taverns must be forced to close at 9pm. Eskom must also fix our electricity problem because this darkness also contributes to high levels of crime in the area,” said the 65-year-old Mnyembane.