It’s war on Highway gangs

2013-04-11 00:00

AN ELDERLY Pinetown man was murdered on the eve of a police offensive against violent robbers using pangas and knives to sow fear in suburbs west of Durban.

The 78-year-old was stabbed and found dead yesterday morning in his ransacked home, police confirmed.

Spokesperson Captain Thulani Zwane said the killing took place between 5 pm on Tuesday and 8.15 am yesterday.

“The house was ransacked and his household items and motor vehicle were allegedly stolen. The motor vehicle was later recovered in Hammarsdale.”

The discovery of the body followed the announcement a few hours later of a month-long operation by police to root out violent gangs and individuals targeting homes in the Upper Highway suburbs of Pinetown, Hillcrest and Kloof.

Provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Mmamonnye Ngobeni, speaking at a media briefing in Pinetown, said she had approved the deployment of 63 additional officers to the area.

They include 53 tactical response team members, 15 detectives and five crime intelligence experts.

Also part of the operation is the Directorate of Priority Crime Investigations, nicknamed the Hawks, and local Pinetown prosecutors, who have promised to give special attention to cases.

Ngobeni personally briefed the officers.

“They were cautioned on what is expected of them, and their sole duty is to assist the investigative capacity and ensure high visibility.”

She also met local community policing forum (CPF) leaders.

“I am very happy with the intervention, extremely happy, but having said that, my happiness depends on results,” said Kloof CPF deputy chairperson Corné Broodryk.

Kloof is manned by a small team of about 15 officers using only two vehicles.

Broodryk and treasurer Nikki Mohlmann had the highest praise for the staff of their local police station, but said further resources were needed.

While Ngobeni refused to divulge statistics, citing national legislation forbidding her, Broodryk said their police station averaged about five to seven call-outs a day.

He said three cameras were recently erected in the village and Broodryk hoped residents would fund more that could be placed at entrances and exits to Kloof, with feeds linked to police.

Mohlmann said residents were living in fear following a spate of publicised robberies by what some media dubbed the “panga”, “whoonga” and “finger” gangs, names referring to alleged characteristics of each group.

But Ngobeni played down the sensational names, saying it was wrong to glorify criminals.

At least six arrests have been made in recent weeks involving home invasions during which owners and their families were stabbed, hacked or beaten.

Ngobeni said the crime intelligence team was still profiling suspects to determine which attacks were random and which may have been the result of organised crime gangs.

The operation would be reviewed after a month and continued if necessary, she added.

• brett.horner@witness.co.za

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