Durban - Nine people have been arrested after a week-long crime-spree in Pietermaritzburg that saw a spate of carjackings and burning of stolen cars, allegedly by a criminal syndicate celebrating the life of a dead gang member.
The alleged gang member, Sandile “Masa” Shezi, was buried in the city at the weekend.
The city has been on edge after his death last week.
Shezi, of Ridge Park, sustained a gunshot wound to the leg during a shoot-out with police, who had responded to a robbery at the Westville post office in November. He apparently only went to hospital for treatment after his wound became infected and had to have his leg amputated. He died last Sunday.
There were social media warnings as early as Wednesday that cars were being stolen and the situation would worsen closer to the day of Shezi’s funeral.
While only two cars were confirmed to have been stolen and set alight on Thursday and Friday, it is believed that more vehicles were stolen or hijacked over the same period.
SAPS spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala said a woman driving on Pentridge Road in Pietermaritzburg was hijacked on Thursday at gunpoint and her vehicle was later found burnt.
On Friday, a vehicle was stolen on Pietermaritz Street, and was also found burnt in Slangspruit.
The police moved to clamp down on the crime-spree on Saturday.
“As I drove through Moses Mabhida Road on Saturday there was a large police contingent, heavily armed. They were stopping every car that came past and ordered all passengers out of the cars and searched them,” said a community member, who declined to be named.
There were several videos posted on social media of the scenes, allegedly part of the events of the funeral.
In one video, a coffin was placed in the middle of the road while a car was spinning around, much to the delight of the cheering crowds.
In another video, people were recorded firing live rounds in the air.
KwaZulu-Natal Transport, Community Safety and Liaison MEC Bheki Ntuli said more arrests would be made.
He said suspects had been arrested after reports of carjacking and theft of vehicles that were later found burnt, spinning of vehicles on the road, discharging of firearms in public and use of firearms to fire gun salutes, attempted carjacking and possession of an unlicensed firearm, among other transgressions.
Police issued 26 traffic fines, for various offences, to motorists at the funeral.
Vusi Magazi, regional chairperson of the SA National Civic organisation in Pietermaritzburg, said the community must stop hero-worshipping criminals.
“What happened this weekend is something that can never be tolerated. Even after the funeral, we were still subjected to the sound of gunfire until 11pm. The public were harassed for the whole week, with the stealing of cars.”