Durban - On Friday, several cars were allegedly stolen from around Durban and burnt in uMlazi, before the funeral for local gangster, Sandile “Chillies” Bhengu, on Saturday.
This despite a warning by police not to idolise the criminal element on social media where video clips of gangsters spinning their wheels were being widely shared.
Bhengu, 36, died last week when shot by police after allegedly being caught removing a tracking device from a stolen car.
At a memorial service in uMlazi, mourners danced to loud music, booze flowed, guns were fired in salute and engines revved.
On Friday night, Durban resident Lee Maharaj confirmed that his uncle’s bakkie and a friend’s Toyota Corolla were stolen in Chatsworth and later found burned in uMlazi.
“My uncle had parked his car on the pavement in Silverglen just before midday and when he went back about 45 minutes later, it was gone. It was found in uMlazi burnt to ashes. My friend’s Toyota was taken outside Pick n Pay in Chatsworth,” said Maharaj.
Thabo Kadikadi, chairman of the Umbilo CPF, said a hijacking had been reported on Friday afternoon.
He said he hoped beefing-up security in uMlazi would not lead to a situation people needed to fear.
Kloof CPF chairman Corne Broodryk said he was “knocked’ by people’s response to the death of Bhengu.
“Hero-worshipping a criminal. It’s almost unheard of. Today three vehicles have been stolen and set on fire. It all comes together. This is not good for us. We are going to see a massive increase in crime in the next three months. There will be 53% unemployment by year-end so it’s coming.
“People have just lost patience with the police but it’s not the police’s fault. It’s the politicians’ fault. I am very concerned about the next three months,” said Broodryk.
Durban North and uMhlanga CPF chairman Haden Searles said they had received many messages on Friday regarding the possible theft of motor vehicles, while criminals had attempted to steal a blue Polo in his office parking lot on Friday morning.
“They came quietly cruising down the road, but local security responded and they just as calmly left. The public are fed up with the sense of lawlessness from criminals. People work very hard for what they have, such as a car,” said Searles.
The brazen attitude of criminals in and around Durban is in stark contrast to law-abiding but fed-up residents, who are teaming-up with their local security providers and police to bring criminals to book.
While criminals were prowling the streets this week, two suspects had been identified by residents of Candella Street in Sydenham, who set a trap of their own on Friday morning.
Resident Ahmed Patel said there had been two smash-and-grab incidents from cars during the week.
The criminal duo were also suspected of carrying out smash-and-grabs at waiting traffic in Wiggins Road and at an M7 intersection where they had been caught on camera.
On a WhatsApp group, the information was shared and sting operation set up by a local security company.
“The residents decided to catch these guys. When I went down the road this morning, I could see some of the residents hiding and waiting to make an arrest,” said Patel.
The two suspects were caught and positively identified, wearing the same clothing as had been snapped in video footage.
Sydenham CPF member Satish Dhuphelia said the arrests showed how crime could be combated if residents worked with the police and local security companies.
“Residents are always urged to call police first and to not put themselves in danger.”
This warning was repeated by Hayden Searles, who said their CPF structures work closely with police and security companies.
“We have specialised patrols with police members and some of our guys have been suitably trained. It can be very dangerous when people take the law into their own hands. When the community gets involved and works hand in hand with police it works wonders,” he said.
Meanwhile, Twitter has been abuzz with support for a woman from Lady Frere in the Eastern Cape who was arrested by police after she stabbed three men she found gang-raping her daughter.
She killed one and injured the other two after conducting a midnight search using her cellphone as a torch after she heard her daughter was in trouble.
A fundraising campaign to help meet the mother’s legal costs has been started by Natalie E Kendrick, who describes herself on her Twitter account as an “archaeologist, feminist and outspoken introvert”. The mother is out on R500 bail.
On Friday night, police had not responded to queries as to whether vehicles had been targeted in Durban on Friday, but SAPS KZN Media Communications office issued the same statement as the previous day, which said “Police will continue with high visibility operations at uMlazi and the surrounding areas after social media messages indicated that criminals were gearing up to hijack the vehicles in the area and attack police officials.
“The deployment follows after messages on social media that criminals were encouraged to hijack vehicles and attack police due to the recent killing of a gang leader in uMlazi. Police officers are aware of these threats and have taken extra precautions and necessary steps to prevent such incidents from occurring. The uMlazi SAPS have deployed a large contingent of police officers to deal with these threats and to make sure that the community is safe,” said the statement.
SAPS Colonel Thembeka Mbhele said: “We will continue with our operations until the ‘gang leader’ is buried. We will not tolerate people who want to take the law into their own hands and cause panic in our communities.
“We also discourage community members from idolising criminals and joining them when they fire shots into the air and 'spin' cars, as these can inadvertently lead to the death of bystanders.”
The Independent on Saturday