Johannesburg - Bekkersdal is on a knife edge as gang violence has claimed two lives in the past five days, including that of a popular local DJ.
Tony Phato – popularly known in Bekkersdal, west of Joburg, as DJ T-Lesh – was hacked to death by gangsters on Saturday.
His friend, known only as Motlalentoa, survived and is in a critical condition in hospital.
On Monday, Phato’s distraught family said he had spent his life entertaining people. “I lost a talented son,” his mother, Jane Phato, said. His killers inflicted multiple stab wounds on his body and dumped him near the Donaldson Dam.
Phato’s death was made public on Facebook, before his parents and relatives had been informed.
Phato’s grandmother Dianna Letsie recalled the moment she learnt of the DJ’s death: “I was walking in the street when I was stopped by a group of girls. One of them said to me ‘Where is Tony?’ I said ‘I do not know’. She said it is all over Facebook that Tony is dead. I did not take them seriously and walked home.”
Letsie said the group walked to Phato’s family and told them the news – spurring the entertainer’s father Sandile and other relatives to go to the local police station.
The family complained that a police officer had not treated them well. “She just told us one of them survived and I think, ‘Yes, I think his name is Tony, is dead’. She just said that,” Letsie added. They found him lying face down with stab wounds in his back.
Phato was due to release his debut album on August 26, his 21st birthday.
On the fateful day, he was collecting CDs for a youth festival on June 16, according to his grandmother and father.
Local residents said Phato’s death was a revenge attack.
The gang violence came a few weeks after service delivery violence in Bekkersdal.
Residents told The Star that there had been sporadic gang attacks in the mining town in the past two weeks.
The Creatures, the Calabash and TOP had been responsible for a series of housebreakings and robberies in the town, they said.
Jacob Matshoge said residents had cornered a gangster and assaulted him two weeks ago.
“He then called his fellow gang members and wanted to attack the residents. That led to residents arming themselves with pangas and other weapons to protect themselves.
“The situation intensified on Thursday, when the residents spotted three gang members breaking into a house in the Afghanistan informal settlement.
“The residents managed to get hold of one of them. He was severely beaten until he died. The other two ran away. The community vented their anger on the gang member,” Matshoge said.
Residents were conducting patrols 24 hours a day.
“Pupils have joined these gang groups. They are carrying weapons and drugs to school.”
He singled out The Creatures as the most dangerous.
On Monday, residents woke up early to escort their children to Simunye Senior Secondary and Kgothalang Senior Secondary schools.
Westonaria Local Municipality Speaker Smuts Mmononwa has called an urgent meeting with the police and the principals of local schools. – Additional reporting by Vuyo Mkize