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eThekwini municipal staff security concern: Guards accompanying workers killed, robbed

The safety of eThekwini municipal staff has come under sharp focus once again after private security guards accompanying electricity unit workers were killed in an apparent ambush in KwaMashu yesterday.

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Published May 17, 2022

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DURBAN - THE safety of eThekwini municipal staff has come under sharp focus once again after private security guards accompanying electricity unit workers were killed in an apparent ambush in KwaMashu yesterday.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Nqobile Gwala said charges of murder, attempted murder and robbery were being investigated by KwaMashu SAPS.

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“Upon arrival at the scene, police found bodies of two security officials aged 35 and 47 inside the vehicle with multiple gunshot wounds. They were both declared dead at the scene. The other 31-year-old victim sustained injuries. The victims were also robbed of their pistols,” said Gwala, who added that the matter was under investigation.

The municipality yesterday said it was aware of the matter and expressed its condolences to the families of the security guards who lost their lives.

The mayor’s spokesperson, Mluleki Mntungwa, said there was growing concern over incidents where staff were being attacked while carrying out their duties.

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“Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda has been consistent in appealing for restraint from community members to allow workers to do their work and restore services to communities that have been affected by floods. Such an act (the murders) defeats that purpose,” said Mntungwa.

He said the attack was disturbing as it came just weeks after a municipal employee, Phumzile Qatha, was shot dead at a municipal depot.

Mntungwa said they would look at stepping up security measures to ensure the safety of staff when they went out to communities.

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The attack yesterday came just hours after organised business had expressed concern over safety in the city during a meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa and Cabinet members on Sunday.

In a presentation made to the president, the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry raised the alarm over business and construction sites that were being invaded by illicit business forums, saying this was leading to projects being delayed, resulting in significant economic and financial losses.

In the presentation, the Chamber’s Graham O’Connor said such attacks must be treated seriously.

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“The threat of organised crime in KZN is at a very advanced level. Government needs to deal with organised crime and change the law to address it.

“Police seem to be highly involved with organised criminal syndicates in the province and the country as a whole,” the presentation said.

O’Connor said the business community wanted to see the return of the Scorpions or a similar unit, expressing concern that the Hawks were ineffective because they were part of the SAPS, which was plagued by corruption and inefficiency.

“The Hawks are general police and earning a low salary and they are investigating high-level, well-funded organised crime syndicates, therefore the Hawks are easily compromised by these syndicates,” the presentation said.

Other concerns raised by the Chamber to Ramaphosa included:

The need for an increase in police presence in key economic nodes such as the industrial parks.

The need for the review of the labour legislative framework as costs of employment for small businesses were quite high.

During Sunday’s meeting Premier Sihle Zikalala also noted that while there had been an improvement in how the police were dealing with crime, there remained concerns over the provision of resources to police and called on Police Deputy Minister Cassel Mathale to relay the message to Minister Bheki Cele for further resources to be availed.

Security expert Dr Johan Burger said the concerns from organised business were legitimate and pointed to police incapacity which had been exposed during the July riots. He noted that the police would need to work hard to restore the public’s faith in them.

Burger pointed out that criminals had gained the upper hand and a belief that the police were not a match for them. He also noted that while crime had dropped in KZN and the rest of South Africa during lockdown, following the easing of restrictions, it was on the rise again.

He agreed that over the past months there had been a rise in organised groupings that were extorting money from business operators in return for some form of protection. The rise in criminal activity, Burger said, coupled with underresourced police, was likely to lead to a rise in reliance on private security.

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