Homeless fear for lives as police proble ‘valuable info’
Gauteng / 22 June 2019, 11:06am / GOITSEMANG TLHABYE, SHAUN SMILLIE AND ANA
Pretoria - Police said they had received valuable information from the public which is assisting them in their hunt for who is responsible for the murder of five homeless men in Pretoria.
A SAPS task team is evaluating these leads and are reportedly examining CCTV footage taken from near the scene of one of the murders.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the fourth and fifth bodies were discovered, making homeless people more jittery as many suspect the killer is someone who is familiar to them and moves unnoticed among them.
In the past few weeks, the bodies of five homeless men who were bludgeoned and stabbed repeatedly were discovered around Magnolia Dell Park in Muckleneuk.
And while detectives are chasing leads, work has also began on identifying the victims.
“This investigation commenced with immediate effect and is still under way; thus (we) are limiting our comments to the public,” said Gauteng provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters, who added that police had received good information from the public.
The usually bustling Magnolia Dell Park was relatively deserted yesterday as the homeless feared the coming of another night.
Vusumuzi Makhanya, who recycles plastic and has made the park his home since 2016, said he lived in constant fear for his life.
“Can you think about it, there is someone out there out to get us, us who are poor, and kills us for no reason,” he said, shaking his head.
Makhanya said he planned to find another spot to live and sleep where he could feel safe.
“I’d rather leave than die here.”
The City of Tshwane is working with NGOs in the field to increase the number of shelters.
Two homeless men who sleep in the Magnolia Dell area have come forward and told police of their lucky escapes from attacks by a knife-wielding man wearing a balaclava who they believe may be the killer.
On Thursday, a vigil was held at Magnolia Dell, with residents and community leaders showing their support for the homeless.
But many of the homeless are sceptical the police will catch the killer.
“They can tell people all they want that they are working on this but we know the truth. Not a single police officer has come to ask us if we have information or to check up on how things are going,” said a homeless person who asked not to be named
“We know that these killings don’t matter and we don’t matter because they see us as nothing.
“If it were other people killed like this we know these high-investigative units they talk of would actually materialise.”
Joseph Mathebula, who said he had spent five years on the streets, said everyone in his group was talking about the killings and were genuinely worried.
He said he hoped the police would get to the bottom of the problem and make an arrest soon so they could rest more easily.
Gauteng provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Mathapelo Peters said there were no new developments, but denied police were not taking the matter seriously.
According to experts, people sleeping on the street are more likely to be victims of violence.
Magnolia Dell has been a haven for the homeless, especially the northern side of the park. Before the murders, visitors to the park were usually greeted by the sight of the homeless. Since the killings, some visitors said they were cautious of their surroundings and opted to visit early in the afternoon and leave just before sunset.