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Johannesburg - The theft of an LCD TV set at an Absa branch in the Joburg CBD has raised questions about whether it was a hit by the so-called “Plasma TV gang”.
On Thursday morning, robbers shattered a window of the bank along Main Street and made off with the TV.
Police spokesman warrant officer Xolani Mbele confirmed the robbery on Friday, saying no arrests had been made.
Reports emerged this week of a “Plasma TV gang” terrorising the residents of Alexandra following the murders of eight people over the past three months.
While police have dismissed the existence of the “Plasma TV gang” and its link to drugs as a rumour, residents claim to know individuals behind the gang.
Residents believe that flat-screen TVs are stolen and components used in a drug cocktail. Drug experts also say that because thieves would only get a few rand for the drug concoction this means it’s unlikely that the sets would be stolen for drugs.
Now xenophobia has reared its ugly head, with residents saying that there is a syndicate jointly run by South Africans, Pakistanis and Somalis.
At an informal meeting held on Thursday night outside the Kings Cinema in 2nd Avenue in Alex, a man who declined to be identified, said: “We know who these people are. They are the same culprits recruiting youngsters who smoke nyaope. We are informed by the nyaope users that they drive Avanza taxis and are heavily armed.“
The man claimed that he and others had confronted and apprehended a handful of nyaope smokers who confessed and pointed them to where the alleged syndicates operated.
While these allegations are unconfirmed, Gauteng legislature member and resident Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane said she knew of the claims.
Nkosi-Malobane phoned Talk Radio 702 this week to speak about the gang.
She said residents planned to deliver notices to nyaope users to warn them.
“I have informed the police regarding all these issues and have asked them to work with the community to arrest those perpetrators,” Nkosi-Malobane said, adding that she was working around the clock to ensure no further violence ensued.
On Wednesday in a show of anger over the eight murders in the area, a shop belonging to two Pakistani men was burnt down, tyres were set alight and rocks thrown along Alfred Nzo Street. Residents blame the presence of foreigners for the increase in crimes.
Captain Kym Cloete said the situation was calm and that they were unsure if the rioting was connected to xenophobic attacks.
The murders begun in June.
The first two victims, Sifiso Mazibuko and Prince Morolong, were stabbed. Both their TV sets were taken.
Other victims, who were shot during the robberies, have been identified by Nkosi-Malobane as Thelma Mbatha from 19th Avenue, Kgomotso Kgare from 4th Avenue, Kholani Magwaza from 5th Avenue, Thami Mgwema from 14th Avenue, Nicodums Mlambo from Phase three who was shot last Wednesday and Pieter Maroleni, who was shot on Monday.
Maroleni was gunned down while locking his store. Although no TV set was taken, his death was linked by the community to the gang.
The suspects allegedly targeted a house next door to Maroleni’s shop, when they spotted him locking the store.
Before Maroleni’s death, the Good Hope restaurant on 10th Avenue was burnt down allegedly by the same gang.
At his memorial service this week, Maroleni was described as an astute businessman and a loving father. He will be laid to rest today at the Waterfall Cemetery in Midrand.
Alexandra Community Policing Forum chairman Bulldog Rathoko said they would form yard and block committees to maintain safety and had urged residents to purchase whistles to use to alert others during a robbery.
ANC Youth League ward 91 chairman Kenneth Mgaga said the crisis was not only an issue of xenophobia. “Our real enemy are the drug lords. We also want scrap metals dealers to be closed immediately. They create a lucrative market for these youngsters to use drugs.”
The ANC Youth League will also patrol the streets.
Provincial police spokesman Colonel Katlego Mogale said: “We’ve spoken (to) our operational members and they are looking into it. As far as we know plasma TVs are often stolen and resold. We haven’t heard of instances where it involves Nyaope.”
Was it a Plasma TV, LED or LCD?
Samsung SA spokesman Gerrit Griffioen said the different TV sets were differentiated by the technologies they incorporated.
He said LCD and LEDs were technically similar, as they both used a liquid display panel.
“The main difference comes in the backlighting technology used to place a picture on the screen. The LCD uses a florescent tube, while an LED uses LED lights. A Plasma TV on the other hand is made up of pixels which contain a gas. When excited the gas changes colour to display a picture on the screen, hence no backlighting technology,” he said.
Griffioen would not be drawn into speaking about the chemical inside the TV, but said Samsung would work with authorities should the need arise.
LG SA declined to comment saying it would investigate the issue further and respond if necessary.
Panasonic and Sony SA had not been able to comment by deadline.