Residents left shaken after brazen attack, robbery at Malamulele police station
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Pretoria - Residents of Malamulele in Limpopo are “very afraid” and “frightened” after heavily armed men stormed and robbed the local police station of rifles, pistols and ammunition on Sunday night.
They said they had lost the little respect they had for the police after they were rounded up by a criminal gang and locked in the back of their own van, in a suspected inside job.
Police spokesperson Colonel Athlenda Mathe confirmed that, at about midnight on Sunday, a group of armed suspects stormed the Malamulele police station and held officers at gunpoint in the community service centre of the precinct.
“Some members were forced into the back of a police van, while one member was ordered to unlock the safe where the suspects took R5 rifles, 9mm pistols, shotguns and an undisclosed amount of ammunition,” said Mathe.
She said that after robbing the police station, the suspects proceeded to a local food outlet and a petrol-filling station, where they robbed the businesses of an undisclosed amount of cash.
“All role-players, including a multidisciplinary team consisting of crime-scene experts and specialised units within the SAPS, are combing the scene and are in pursuit of the heavily armed men.”
Crime analyst and lecturer at the University of Venda, Ndivhuwo Sithuga, said it was obvious that Malamulele residents would lose confidence in the police, if they had not done so already.
“The job of the police is to protect the community. So, in this case they failed to protect themselves in a police station where it should be the safest place.
“There is a high possibility that it’s an inside job, because how did they know there were so many guns there?” said Sithuga. He added that community members had always been sceptical of the police because of their behaviour.
“Sometimes they even escort criminals. In the villages when there is a problem, they always come late, which has made people lose trust in our law enforcement. But this incident takes the cake.”
Mathe added: “Acting national commissioner of the SAPS ,Lieutenant-General Francinah Vuma, has directed the provincial commissioner of Limpopo, Lieutenant-General Thembi Hadebe, to implement a 72-hour activation plan following the attack on the Malamulele police station on Sunday evening.”
Hadebe and her management team have since visited the crime scene.
Mathe said that the station had been temporarily closed because of the incident.
“Services at the police station were temporarily affected during the armed robbery. The SAPS can now confirm that the police station is now fully functional and accessible to members of the public.”
In spite of the assurances that the station was fully functional, residents of Malamulele said they had lost confidence in the law enforcement officers and the station itself, with one saying it was not the first time such an incident had occurred.
Elliot Mboweni, who is from Malamulele but now lives in Joburg, said he had long been disappointed with the station.
“A similar incident happened a while back, when a man beat up a woman inside the police station. The woman had gone to the police station to lay a case of domestic violence, and was beaten there.
“Every time I’m home, my kids and I are always careful because we have no confidence in law enforcement. It’s very frightening to think that people are roaming around with automatic weapons.”
Vincent Sithole Mboweni said: “I was so freaked out when I heard the news this morning. I work nearby the petrol station that they robbed, but we did not hear a thing. We just got the news this morning. It’s very scary.”
Tinswalo Mabunda said she was not surprised.
“Police there never pay attention to anything. So I’m not surprised that they were caught off guard. How does a police station get robbed? I want to believe that it was just an isolated incident, but it smells like an inside job. I’m so scared, I’ll lock myself indoors.”
Last month, the police reported that robbers brazenly attacked a Sir Lowry’s Pass satellite police station about 60km from Cape Town, disarming officers before fleeing with two 9mm service pistols, three cellphones and a laptop computer.