Durban – Every time Absolom Dinga Ndlovu, 65, hears the sound of gunfire, his blood pressure rises.
Ndlovu, who has lived in KwaMashu’s B section for 38 years, told DA police spokesperson Zakhele Mbhele that if the police got rid of guns in the area, the levels of crime would decrease.
Mbhele, along with eThekwini mayoral candidate Haniff Hoosen and other DA members, visited the area, situated near the KwaMashu hostels, on Thursday as part of their walkabout to learn more about the challenges facing the community.
Ndlovu arrived in the area on September 15, 1978.
Originally from Mpendle near the Underberg, Ndlovu said: "I suffered from epileptic fits as a young man and I fetched my medication in the area when there was a welfare centre. I came here when it was just a residential area for elderly men.
"My mother left, my father took another wife and she was troublesome, so they brought us here."
The elderly man said he had never had formal employment.
"My two children have died, but I have a girlfriend. She lives in Lindelani.”
Ndlovu said he would vote in the August 3 local government elections.
“We need to get rid of guns. I would love to build a new house with water and, most importantly, electricity, but the house must be in Mpendle, where I come from, not in the city."
'Sometimes guns are fired right next you'
He said KwaMashu police had raided the houses looking for weapons, but often did not find them.
“Minutes after they leave we hear gun shots, they need scanners that will be able to detect whether a gun is present or not. They cannot just come in the house and check. People can hide guns. I can hide it in a bucket and they won’t find it because they don’t look in there.”
He said every time he heard gunfire his blood pressure went up.
“Sometimes guns are fired right next you. We are old, we don’t like loud noises, but by the grace of God, we are still alive.”
He said the criminals in the area did not use knives to commit crimes - they only used guns.
"Some people get into fights while living in rural areas and they come here and kill each other. Some fight here and then kill each other in the homesteads. We don’t know what the fight is about."
A woman who was sharing a house with Ndlovu, but who asked not to be named and was not related, said issues were often reported to the block chairpersons and they took the communities' concerns to the councillors.
"One day when I came back from the library, a man was shot and robbed in broad daylight, but he never died. They take everything, cellphones and money, mostly," she said about crime in the area. She said residents were encouraged to be inside their homes by 22:00.
'There is a lot of crime here'
Another woman, who did not want to be named because she feared for her life, said the problem was with overcrowding.
"There is a lot of crime here and if they could remove the shacks and build us proper houses, things would be better. The police do work, but they cannot navigate through the settlement because there are too many shacks."
She said the police would be able to apprehend the criminals if the place was not so congested.
Mbhele said as much as policing was a national competency, the conditions in communities were major contributing factors to how safe an area was. "If there is dense informal housing which makes it difficult for the police to patrol or pursue criminals, it makes their jobs much more difficult.”
He said having services, and how those services were delivered, was important.
Hoosen said this was an example of how the most vulnerable had been failed by the government.
He said every five years, the ruling party made elaborate plans and then came up with elaborate excuses of why the promises were not delivered.