Municipality blamed for crime wave

Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

The Newcastle municipality in northern KwaZulu-Natal is under fire for allegedly perpetuating crime.

Locals say criminals are using low-cost houses that have not been allocated as safe havens in which to conduct their activities.

Residents in the KwaMathukusa area say they are living in a crime hot spot and that the municipality is responsible for the escalating crime wave in the area. And they cite recent police action in closing down several taverns in the area after they had been found to be meeting places for criminals.

Residents said the municipality was aware of unoccupied houses that criminals were using as "crime depots".

A resident, Themba Mkhungo, said the municipality was aware of the vacant houses, but was doing nothing about them.

"What makes matters worse is that criminals run away from big townships like Madadeni and Osizweni and find empty houses here to hide in. There is no proper road infrastructure to increase police visibility here.

"Our area is a crime hot spot. We feel unsafe," Mkhungo said.

Pensioners told Sowetan that they were living in fear.

One pensioner said: "Our life is hell. These criminals knock on the door and demand our pension money.

"Recently an old man was hammered to death while he and his wife were sleeping. We are afraid."

Municipal authorities were unavailable for comment, but local councillor Dudu Mbatha agreed that crime levels were high.

"We should tell the truth. People are being kept hostage in their homes by criminals that turn the area into a hiding place," she said.

Mbatha said she knew of 10 homes that were not being occupied by their rightful owners.

"Initially these houses had owners and after some time they disappear. We're working around the clock to give out all those houses to the needy people."