Durban - Six men died in a hail of bullets and two others were wounded at the weekend when gunmen opened fire on them in a Hammarsdale tavern that authorities believe could have been used as a gang hideout.

Five of the men killed in Saturday’s shooting are believed to have been members of a notorious gang terrorising residents of Mpumalanga township, Hammarsdale and Sankontshe in KwaZulu-Natal.

Police said the sixth victim, whose death was confirmed only on Sunday, had not been linked to the gang.

The two wounded men were in a critical condition in hospital, police said.

Neighbours approached by the Daily News claimed to have not heard anything on the night of the shooting and said they did not know who owned the tavern.

At least 15 forensic markers could be seen on the wall of the tavern in a house in Sankontshe when a Daily News team arrived at the scene. The floor had already been cleaned of most of the blood.

No arrests have been made.

Police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker said 9mm cartridges were found where the men had been partying, when two gunmen stormed in.

“We are not sure as to why they were killed and what transpired. We do know that some of the men who were killed were repeat offenders who were out on bail. One of them had been out on bail and facing two murder charges,” said Naicker.

Community Safety and Liaison MEC Willies Mchunu visited the scene along with top KwaZulu-Natal police officials on Sunday and addressed the community. He said it was regrettable to start the year on such a dreadful note.

“Government is concerned with the loss of life, regardless of whose life it is. This saddens us as the government,” said Mchunu.

The MEC appealed to people to come forward with information that might lead to the arrests of the attackers.

“The shootings undermined the progress made in addressing crime. I ask members of the community to call direct on my mobile phone,” he said. “We do not know the owner of this house. It seems like it has been used as a hideout. It does not have furniture. I

“It is unknown why these people were killed – perhaps it was a revenge (killing). Police are working around the clock to bring the perpetrators to book.”

After Mchunu’s address, an angry man in the audience criticised the police for failing to deal with crime.

“The police station should be closed down, it is good for nothing. They do not arrest criminals; maybe police have befriended criminals,” he said. “We, the innocent people, have become victims of crime.”

A woman in the crowd asked the MEC to close down taverns, saying they had become a nuisance in the area.

“We do not sleep at night because of noise. Taverns have become a source of trouble as they operate 24 hours,” she said.

Local ward councillor Bheki Sosibo said crime was rife in the area.

“Apart from (Saturday’s) incident, we have had plenty of other criminal activities in this area.

“We recommend that people come forward with information so that those who have committed this can be apprehended,” he said.

Daily News