Terrorised communities call authorities to act

Community members who marched to the Bhityi police station hand over a petition demanding improved policing due to the high rate of violent crime in the area.
Community members who marched to the Bhityi police station hand over a petition demanding improved policing due to the high rate of violent crime in the area.
Image: Supplied

Fed-up with ongoing violent crime in their villages, about 200 women from 21 areas at Bhityi, near Mthatha, marched to the local police station demanding that the provincial police commissioner improve policing in their area.

They want the justice system, especially the NPA, to prosecute and jail criminals who rape and kill women and children.

They also called for livestock thieves to be prosecuted and sent to jail.

The march was led by the ANC Women’s League and supported by stakeholders including the ANC, King Sabata Dalindyebo ward councillors and traditional leaders.

Among the marchers were victims of rape and attempted murder, people who lost their loved ones to violent crime and stock theft victims.

They complained about police lethargy and court acquittals due to sloppy prosecution.

People accused of serious crimes including murder and rape were being released on miniscule bail amounts or even on warning, they complained.

The final straw came last week when an Assembly of God church leader was gunned down at his home in Xhongorha, in the Bhityi area.

The 2014 murder of Lungisa Magadlathe, the son of Bhityi ANC Women’s League chairperson Sizeka Magadla, is still raw for the family. Magadla said: “We were failed by the justice system. My son was killed in full view of witnesses.

“The culprits were arrested and we were never called in all the court hearings.

“We heard three months later upon inquiry on the progress of the case that the case was dismissed, the suspects released and the docket closed.

“We could not believe it and called for the reinstatement of the case,” she said, adding that the case was back on the roll.

“In June, there was a 76-year-old woman who was gang-raped and beaten.

“She died in hospital. There were no arrests. In March, four schoolgirls were raped and no arrest was made.

“We are terrorised. We are under siege from criminals.”

Traditional leader Nkosi Zwelithobile Mtirara said the area was “notorious for stock theft killings” – both people believed to be thieves and those believed to be protecting the stock – and for killings of women accused of witchcraft.

“And there is rife mob-killing of those accused of terrorising the community, including the balaclava gang known as Oonontwayibone and some night horse raiders.

“This has been turned into a horror village where you are killed even if you are a priest, or raped and killed by boys as young as your grandson even if you are an elderly woman.

“There are many illegal guns, including R5s, R4s and AK47s circulating here in the hands of criminals,” said Mtirara, calling for policing to be beefed up.

King Sabata Dalindyebo ward 18 councillor Sandla Tokwana said that at a crime awareness imbizo in December 2017 they were promised increased visibility including mounted police and a satellite police station, but that never happened.

The marchers also expressed concern about attacks on foreign nationals who ran trading stores in their villages.

The marchers handed their petition to the Bhityi police management and demanded that the commissioner, Lt-Gen Liziwe Ntshinga, respond within 14 working days.