No to 'vigilante' attacks

2020-02-25 06:00
Ward 67 and 110 councillors Gerry Gordon and Shanen Rossouw attended a community meeting on Wednesday 19 February where mayor Dan Plato addressed residents about the public execution of three people three days earlier.

Ward 67 and 110 councillors Gerry Gordon and Shanen Rossouw attended a community meeting on Wednesday 19 February where mayor Dan Plato addressed residents about the public execution of three people three days earlier. (Racine Edwardes)

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Tensions are still high in Vrygrond, Seawinds, Hillview and Overcome Heights informal settlements after a week of suspected vigilante attacks left at least three people dead. 

The deceased were allegedly set alight on the Little Italy sports ground in Overcome Heights on Sunday 16 February. 

They victims are believed to have been suspects in a spate of break-ins. 

The trio was allegedly cornered by residents who then assaulted them with various objects before setting them alight. 

According to a resident of Hillview, who asked to remain anonymous for safety reasons, said: “The people wanted to set an example. They said the ones who they burnt were breaking into their homes in the settlement and stealing. The residents are tired of it.” Videos of the incident quickly started to make the rounds on social media. 

In the footage, residents are seen trying to douse the fire with sand. 

Capt Stephen Knapp, the spokesperson for Muizenberg police, said the case is under investigation and the victims will only be identified once DNA tests have been completed.

At a meeting held at the murder scene on Tuesday 18 February, residents from the surrounding communities gathered to discuss the incident. A common opinion among the crowd of more than 50 was that police and law enforcement officers did not attempt to help the victims. 

In response, Capt Knapp said: “I wasn’t there, but if police were on the scene they would have helped. They would have assessed the situation and have done the best they could.”

On the same day, after the community meeting came to an end, at about 16:30, a security guard was shot in the face near the murder scene. Capt Knapp said this attack was concerning. “We are looking into the motive for that attack, too. What is disturbing is that nothing was taken from him – not his cellphone or wallet,” he said. 

Residents alleged that this attack was also committed by vigilantes who wanted to send a message.

At a community meeting, attended by Mayor Dan Plato, in Overcome Heights on Wednesday 19 February, residents expressed their frustration at the alleged lack of police assistance. 

Gerry Gordon, councillor for ward 67, and Shanen Rossouw, councillor for ward 110, were also at the meeting.

Gregg Fick, paramount chief at First Indigenous Nation of Southern Africa, told Plato: “Our people demand that there be arrests of those vigilante leaders.” 

He went on to claim: “Capt Knapp met with them so he knows them! The government of the Western Cape, your first responsibility is the defence and safe keeping of our community. Mayor, the community is not safe. We want arrests. Our people demand arrests.”

Capt Knapp denied the claim made by Fick and said: “The motives and the crime are under investigation. And community leaders need to refrain from making this a racial issue or trying to score political points.”

Xolani Hontlo, a respected leader of Overcome Heights also spoke out at the meeting on Wednesday. He said there were several issues the mayor needed to address. 

“We are sick and tired of people threatening us in our shacks. Our children are traumatised by what’s going on here. Can the police please come to this area in the morning when we are going to work? We are appealing to the police to please do their patrols. We pay taxes for them.”

Plato condemned people taking the law into their own hands. 

“Those people breaking our society down – we must stop those people right in their tracks,” said Plato. “Many times people don’t feel safe to talk to the police. If you keep quiet about crime, about violence in your community; you are an accomplice.”

Capt Knapp assured residents that the police are doing all they can to find the perpetrators.

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