Motorists fear daily robberies, rapes

Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

Motorists travelling in the Mhlumayo area outside Ladysmith in northern KwaZulu-Natal are being targeted by marauding gangs of criminals.

Some motorists claim they have been held at gunpoint and robbed while female motorists and passengers are raped.

One local resident, who did not want to be identified, told Sowetan that incidents of crime were a daily occurrence and that police turn a blind eye.

"We have no freedom of movement here. We only pray that these incidents will stop soon," he said.

Police in the area insist the reports are not true and that they patrol the area regularly.

Previously, the area was ravaged by faction fighting between two rival cultural clans.

As a result, many locals fled to nearby mountains while others left the area to live in the nearby towns.

But those who have stayed behind say motorists in the area are now not safe.

"We were affected by faction fighting for years. Just when we were starting to enjoy peace it was shattered by crime," the resident said.

Other residents, who were also afraid to be identified, said the attackers worked in gangs of three or four.

Locals said despite forming lift clubs, the attacks continue.

"The perpetrators don't care," said one resident.

"They even impersonate police at night and redirect drivers to a certain point where they are robbed and raped."

Police spokesman, Captain Ursula Cronje denied the claims, saying the area was quiet and that police were carrying out regular patrols.

However, a social worker in the area said she had heard of several incidents in which women motorists and passengers had been raped at gunpoint.

"Teachers travel in lift clubs because they are worst affected. But others also come to us seeking help because they are not being helped by police," she said.