Mourners take cellphone pictures during a memorial service for the alleged gang kingpin Sandile ‘Chillies’ Bhengu last week. Bhengu was killed by police in a shootout, allegedly after he was caught removing a tracking device from a stolen vehicle. Picture: Sibonelo Ngcobo/ ANA
Since last week I have been interacting, by phone, with my childhood friends from Melmoth and uMlazi (Z Section Phase 3) including teachers, especially Vuma Mfeka, my former school principal at Umgaga High School in K Section where I finished my high school.

Though our interaction was more about matters of socio-economic development, the topic changed as a result of disturbing photos and video clips circulating on various media platforms and published by The Mercury. These visuals showed to a large extent the type of society we are and how some of us have become so accustomed to crime and anarchy.

This is very embarrassing to me as a son of uMlazi. I was raised by my single mother after my father was brutally murdered by criminals.

They inflicted so much pain and suffering to my family. My younger brother, who was three months in my mother’s womb when they killed my father, grew up without a father. He eventually died having complained bitterly for not having a father.

I join those who say we need to raise a strong voice of disapproval whenever crimes are committed.

I spent my childhood in uMlazi  and was whisked away to many places, including Melmoth, during the height of political violence. On my return to uMlazi , I participated in endless protests against apartheid and also witnessed the transition from apartheid regime to a democratic society.

As we seek to create a good image of Umlazi and a crime-free society, complicating the situation is the publicity generated around these “kings” or “queens” of bling who fund their lifestyles through hijackings, fraud and drug trafficking.

There are kingpins who are operating criminal networks. They recruit vulnerable unemployed people, especially the youth, for a variety of illicit activities that generate millions of rands for their lavish lifestyles. 

With operations in major cities such as Durban, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Nelspruit, KwaBulawayo, Harare, Maputo, Nampula, Beira, Manzini, Luanda etc. the kingpins do not work as competitors but collaborate with one another. It is alleged they have networks in various organisations such as Customs, Home Affairs, SARS, the Department of Transport Licensing Office, including insurance companies.

Young people are recruited for housebreakings, shoplifting, armed robberies and car hijackings of luxury motor vehicles and trucks which are sold to buyers and car dealerships in this country, Africa and overseas markets. 

They use the latest technology to sell stolen cars and their parts to international markets through a manipulated shipping system and unmonitored routes.

Many desperate young people from tertiary institutions are recruited – given fraudulent IDs, payslips and credit cards to hire vehicles from legitimate rental companies and end up not returning them. If not dismantled in chop shops, these vehicles are often sold to other provinces and neighbouring countries.

Some of these skilled young people now work as insurance brokers, transporters and specialised artisans who change chassis numbers and other defining features of the vehicle.

Instead of using their skills to grow the economy of the country, the desperate and educated young stars are growing businesses for these kingpins. Every weekend, such kingpins are worshipped and celebrated.

Having come so far, South Africans must resist all forms of criminal activity and violence, says the writer. Picture: Supplied
Creating the “heroic” status around such criminals, poisons innocent minds of our youth who end up admiring them instead of searching for real role models in society.

Community disapproval is an effective form of censure that our communities need to use to create an environment where crime can be fought. Giving criminals a heroic status starts a vicious cycle of never ending crime.

My thinking was shaped by the community of uMlazi and Melmoth, to mention a few places. I attended my secondary school in Melmoth and attended my high school in uMlazi and the teachers moulded me to be who I am today.

One thing that I appreciate about the community, my friends and my teachers from uMlazi  and Melmoth, is that we frowned upon every
 criminal conduct.

There can be no reason to justify any form of crime as criminals leave behind them traumatised victims and their families.

We need to stand up and unite in a public display of disapproval of any crime as this will encourage ordinary members of society to join the campaign of zero tolerance to crime in our communities. 

Let each victim or survivor of crime find support and comfort in our community and each perpetrator must find rejection and the pain of their disgraceful conduct.

Families and communities must expose criminals and co-operate with police in supplying information that assists the police’s investigation. 

Gangs who terrorise communities must be exposed.

Communities must embark on campaigns never to buy stolen goods but to give the information to police to effect arrests of perpetrators. If we continue like this – we will never eradicate crime from our society.

A criminal will never be remorseful if there is no form of rejection from those close to them including the community. Instead of discontinuing; they get emboldened by their practice that goes unpunished. Sooner or later they turn on those who witnessed crime and never took decisive action.

Having said that – may the departed souls rest in peace.

* Ndabezinhle Sibiya is spokesperson for the Premier Willies Mchunu. He writes in his personal capacity.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

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