As police continue to descend on the notorious Diepsloot area in Johannesburg, following the brutal murder of seven people accused of being involved in crime, community leaders said such brutality could have been avoided had government listened.
Earlier this year, IOL reported that protests had erupted in the densely located community, with residents voicing displeasure over rampant violent crime.
In June, angry residents, including community and religious leaders, marched to the Union Buildings in Tshwane, demanding to meet President Cyril Ramaphosa and raise their concerns. They managed to meet officials from the Presidency.
Speaking to broadcaster Newzroom Afrika, one of the community's most outspoken leaders Reverend Thokwane Dithuge said had government intervened, the brutal murder of the seven young people could have been avoided.
“This could have been avoided. Condolences to the families that have lost their loved ones. We condemn this act of killing people. Losing one life is too many. This could have been avoided if the first tier of governance was operational. If local government had its house in order, this should have been avoided,” said Dithuge.
“Secondly, if government can stop playing with people’s lives, our government, this government that we voted for, we went to Union Buildings, they opened their doors for us, we engaged with them, and when they came back with implementation, they excluded us. They called their friends to meet at Black Chairs and other places where they met with people who had never been part of this struggle.”
The reverend said the policing strategy rolled out after the massive protests was wrong.
“How do you come and police with a (Mercedes-Benz) Vito, and you have the TRT (tactical response team) in that moving around? We have dangerous places here, and they don’t go there. They drive on the big roads that connect Diepsloot and other places,” said Dithuge.
“This could have been avoided if government had sent us police.”
He added that the community’s protests should not be hijacked by politicians.
“There is too much competition. There is too much electioneering with the lives of the people,” he said.
Police in Gauteng have opened cases of murder after seven people were found burnt to death in two separate incidents in Diepsloot.
The incidents happened on Friday and in the early hours of Saturday.
“On Friday, at approximately 11pm, police received information about two bodies that were lying in the street in Diepsloot Extension 13. Upon arrival at the scene, police discovered the bodies of two males who were burned,” said Gauteng police spokesperson, Lieutenant Colonel Mavela Masondo.
Both victims were certified dead on the scene.
“A few hours later, information was received about the other five bodies that were lying in Diepsloot Extension 12. Police proceeded to the scene and found five bodies that were also burned,” said Masondo.
The five were also declared dead on the scene.
A preliminary investigation suggests that in both incidents, the victims were severely assaulted and burnt by the mob.
“The motive for the killing cannot be confirmed at this stage. As the police in Gauteng, we strongly condemn acts of vigilantism and the community taking the law into their own hands, as that constitutes a serious criminal offence,” said Masondo.
He said no arrests have been made yet, and police investigations are under way.