Deny bail to dangerous criminals, residents say after tavern killing

Residents of Khayamnandi township in Despatch have protested about what they say is a rise in crime in their area. (Joseph Chirume, GroundUp)
Residents of Khayamnandi township in Despatch have protested about what they say is a rise in crime in their area. (Joseph Chirume, GroundUp)

About 30 residents of Despatch in the Eastern Cape protested on Wednesday outside the Uitenhage Magistrate's Court, demanding action against what they say is an increase in armed robberies and murders in their area, GroundUp reports.

The residents, all of them from Khayamnandi, protested outside the court where a man was appearing, accused of killing a patron at a local tavern on Sunday night.

The accused and other suspects then robbed the tavern of money and beer. The money and beer and a gun thought to have been used in the crime were recovered by police after the suspect was cornered by residents and the police.

Three other suspects are still at large.

The protesters said they wanted the courts to deny bail to dangerous criminals.

One of the protesters, Nombuzo Booysen, said there had been several cases of armed robbery at the tavern.

"Most of these criminals are people who come and spend time in the area either drinking in taverns or driving around. They then rob businesses and individuals."

She said the community wanted police to increase visible patrols in the area.

'Our streets used to be very vibrant'

Another resident, Zolani Khohlakala, said: "I was terrified when I heard gunshots and came out of the house to investigate, only to stumble on the gun lying close to my toilet. It was a very dangerous situation because the police were busy chasing the armed gang. There was shooting all over.

"We need to do something quickly to maintain peace and safety in our community. Our streets used to be very vibrant, but people now stay indoors fearing to venture outside," he said.

ANC branch secretary for Ward 41 Thobekile Lawu said there had also been an upsurge in stock theft.

"The criminals are terrorising isolated communities that rear cattle and goats. We have received numerous reports where livestock have been shot and the carcass loaded onto vehicles," Lawu said.

He said residents were not co-operating with the community policing forum desk at Despatch police station because there were no stipends.

Lawu said: "Residents are reluctant to get involved, saying the project has no incentives. Many residents are not working and spend their time doing piece jobs to earn a living."

He said richer parts of Despatch had security companies patrolling their streets. "I suspect that criminals are running away from these areas and are now targeting townships where security is very lax."

Police spokesperson Captain Gerda Swart confirmed that the search for three other men was continuing.

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