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Pietermaritzburg - A suburb under siege – this is how residents have described life in Copesville, Pietermaritzburg.
“We are living in fear. We don’t know when we will be attacked and robbed or killed. Copesville has become a war zone,” said Sathia Padayachee, a resident of 33 years.
Padayachee said Copesville had been targeted by criminals for many years, and it had become progressively worse.
“A massive informal settlement borders our suburb.
“Poverty and desperation is playing a part in the constant battle between the law-abiding residents and those who live below the breadline,” he said.
Padayachee said an armed gang was allegedly operating in area – breaking into homes, assaulting residents, and hijacking motorists.
In the past two weeks, about eight incidents had been reported, with residents being attacked, robbed and injured in their homes.
On Friday morning, three armed men stormed the house of Veron Singh, 28.
He and his wife were violently awoken by two armed men who demanded cash and car keys.
When Singh said he had no cash, the men assaulted them and shot Singh once in the buttock.
His hysterical wife pleaded with the men not to harm them any further and handed them a large amount of cash.
The robbers then fled.
Another resident, Paul Rangasamy, told the Daily News that last week, his 22-year-old son was held up at gunpoint in the driveway of their Satinspar Road home.
“My son was walking home from a friend’s house at about 10pm when he was confronted by two men, one armed with a knife and one with a gun,” he said.
The young man was hit over the head with the gun and the robbers took his wallet, his cellphone and his watch.
“We were shocked when my son walked into the house with blood dripping down his forehead,” Rangasamy said.
On February 25, Jonathan Govender and his two sons, aged 13 and 10, were held up by three armed men at his tuck shop in Copesville
“My children still cannot sleep. We can’t even allow our children to play outside for fear of what these men will do.
“We are living in a prison and the criminals are the warders,” Govender said.
he had spent a month’s salary installing a new alarm system and was also erecting a perimeter fence.
However, not all Copesville residents could afford to do this, and they were easy prey for criminals.
In another incident, Anton Chetty was hijacked at a stop street in the area on February 17.
He was dragged out of his car by three armed men who hit him across the face with the butt of a gun.
Chetty hit his head on the road and suffered several abrasions and concussion.
He said his family were in the process of moving out of Copesville to another suburb in Pietermaritzburg.
“We cannot continue to live like this. We are entitled to feel safe and secure in our homes and in our neighbourhoods,” said Chetty.
Padayachee said residents were afraid and frustrated.
He said more police patrols were needed in the area to deter criminals.
“We are all just sitting ducks.”
Attempts to contact the ward councillor for the area were unsuccessful.
Police spokesman Jay Naicker said police were aware of the situation in Copesville.
He said anyone with information about criminal activity in the area or which could lead to the arrest of the perpetrators should phone Constable Skhumbuzo Ngcobo of the SAPS Mountain Rise detective services at 033 387 9527 or 072 470 3938, or Captain Pipes Haffajee at 079 500 0264.