Johannesburg - Eight murders in three months in Alexandra allegedly have one thing in common: a plasma TV.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that a group of men, known as the Plasma Gang, are stealing the televisions to retrieve a powder which is being used in a dangerous drug cocktail.
“There have been eight deaths in three months,” said Sizakele Nkosi, the chairwoman for the education committee in the Gauteng Legislature.
She said that the provincial legislature had worked with the Alexandra community to identify these criminals, but had struggled to get charges against the gang to stick.
Nkosi said: “We believe the police are not doing enough to identify these people.”
She claimed a businessman was shot in his shop on Monday night after the gang were unsuccessful in breaking into a house next to the business.
“They don’t steal (a TV) to sell it or watch it. They use it for the powder inside but I can’t confirm that, it’s just a rumour,” Nkosi said on Thursday morning.
She said they had been trying to work with the police in cracking down on the issue, but that this was a struggle.
“The community have to now intensify patrolling in the streets,” Nkosi said.
The Community Police Forum chairman for Alex, Bulldog Rathoko, said he was aware of the reports about the Plasma Gang.
“We’ve heard about it, it’s what the community is telling us,” Rathoko said.
He said they had already held two community meetings about the problem, but no arrests had been made.
Police spokeswoman Captain Kym Cloete asked The Star to send a written query for her to investigate.
Cloete and another policeman from Alex both said they were unaware of plasma TVs being targeted.
“If you so much as wake up to see what’s happening while they are stealing the TV, they will kill you,” said Karabo Masondo, who said her sister’s boyfriend was killed by the gang last week Tuesday.
She called into Talk Radio 702 on Thursday morning to talk about the gang, claiming that the community of Alex was well aware of them.
She said they stole the TVs for the unnamed powder that the gang mixed with other drugs. She said it was mixed with the drug cocktail nyaope, which is most often a combination of heroin and other drugs such as dagga, ARVs and rat poison.
“I’ve not heard anything about that,” said Peter Ucko, a board member of the Central Drug Authority.
He said he would raise the issue at the authority’s next board meeting next month.
“There’s no recipe for nyaope, they use anything,” Ucko said.
Plasma TVs contain phosphor powder - also known as a scintillator - which is a material that converts one type of radiation to another. This is done in order to convert ultraviolet radiation which is invisible to the human eye into a visible form of radiation to make the picture on the screen.
The head of Crime Line, Yusuf Abramjee, called on people to supply tip-offs about the gang to the police.
He said he would be raising the issue with Gauteng police commissioner Mzwandile Petros on Thursday morning.
Tip-offs can be made to Crime Line on 32211.
Over the past two months, 20 000 drug-related arrests have been made through a joint effort between Crime Line and the SAPS.