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We sleep with one eye open - Diepsloot residents after mob justice kills seven

Noxolo Sibiya Journalist
The scene were 7 men, accused of terrorising the community, were killed.
The scene were 7 men, accused of terrorising the community, were killed.

Murder in Diepsloot, the site of this weekend's horror mob justice attack, has nearly doubled since the beginning of the year with the area recording 35 killings in three months.

These escalating crime levels were cited by residents of the township north of Joburg as the reason behind acts of vigilantism which led to the murders of seven men – two in Extension 13 on Friday and the other five in Extension 12 on Saturday.

They were accused of terrorising the community.

Police spokesperson Lt-Col Mavela Masondo on Sunday said they are investigating whether any of the seven men were linked to any crimes.

A resident who lives near a dumping site where five of the seven bodies were burnt said: "We are being killed in Diepsloot and we live in so much fear. I do not blame the people who did what they did. These criminals are without mercy. They enter our homes at night, shoot and then take off with our belongings," said the woman who asked not to be named.

"Just a few weeks ago, a woman's house was broken into while she was asleep and her three-month-old baby was shot dead. All the criminals got after killing an innocent child was a lousy phone that doesn't even have a camera.

"If I had a gun, I would also shoot anyone that walks through my gate and I will explain myself later. Living here is just traumatic. Despite the fact that I walked out and found burnt bodies outside the yard, I am constantly in fear of being robbed or killed."

According to quarterly (July to September) police stats released about two weeks ago, Diepsloot has seen an alarming increase in murder, attempted murder, sexual offences and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm (GBH).

In all these crimes, Diepsloot features in the top 10 police stations which recorded high numbers in Gauteng.

It ranks number six on murder, recorded the highest increase in cases of attempted murder with 45 cases reported. This showed a 114% rise when compared to the same period in 2022, putting it in the third spot in the province.

There were 45 cases of sexual assault reported in the period under review. This was one less case reported compared to the same period in 2022.

Diepsloot ranks number one on cases of assault GBH with an increase of 41.9% from 167 in July to September 2022 to 237 in the same period this year.

Common robberies increased from 18 to 40 in the same period under review.

Community leader Louise Toyiya said he and other leaders have been receiving reports of gunshots every night for months now.

"People are being murdered in Diepsloot, day in, day out. Being shot at in their homes and sometimes in the streets. Criminals have become so relaxed, they are unhindered. This is why people are so angry.

"About four months ago we lost about 12 people to murder by criminals. We made a call to the presidency and four other ministries to deal with crime, instead some community leaders were arrested...

"In a normal community it cannot be that seven people get burnt like that and we find it to be normal. The leadership of this country cannot call for a ceasefire in Gaza when people are dying here. They must start here and call a ceasefire in Diepsloot, in Westbury and in the Cape Flats and act because they have the powers to do so."

A man who also did not want to be named said acts of vigilantism took place every week.

"There is always someone who is caught in the act, either try to steal or break into a home and when the community find them they beat them up and force them to point out their other friends..."

Another resident who called for the deployment of soldiers and amaberete said things have worsened in the area as the festive season approached.

"We sleep with our eyes open because anything can happen. I hear gunshots, footsteps of people panting and running and sometimes, you hear your neighbour being attacked. As you can see, we are deep in the settlement and even police respond hours later. People are trying to make a a quick buck before the festive season but to be honest it's not a new thing. We have been living like this for months now," said the man who also asked not to be named.

"These criminals know that no one will come to our aid and that's why they target us. I am asking that there be soldiers and amaberete deployed because the community is angry. Things will only get worse.

Elvis Shube said while some residents were shocked to wake up to news of the murders, many weren't as residents were growing tired with the high levels of crime that go unabated.

"It's usually young boys and they are so brazen. They break into houses, kill you and then steal. That has been the pattern for months and it's getting worse.

"People are fed up. It feels like we are the forgotten people. Even police are scared to come in here when they are called, so people feel like they have no one to depend on for safety. As a parent, I wouldn't have wanted my child to die that way but these children are committing serious crimes, they are taking other people's lives."

Masondo said no arrests have been made.


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