PRETORIA- Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula has condemned the violent protests that have gripped the town of Rustenburg in the North West.
“No matter how justified people might think they are, taking the law into their own hands does not make them different to the people they accuse of being criminals. People must know we are a democratic state, with competent institutions that could resolve all concerns,” Mbalula said.
The area has resembled a war zone for some days as taxi drivers, operators and members of the community have gone on the rampage against drug dealers, prostitutes and criminals.
At least eight houses were torched on Wednesday night as community members attacked suspected drug dens and brothels.
A businessman, who identified himself as Nic from Uganda, said two of his guest houses were damaged.
“One guest house was vandalised on Monday, and this one was torched last night,” Nic said on Thursday while standing in front of his burnt property. There is a hydrant, and the fire brigade is a block away, less than 500 m, they did not assist. The fire brigade only came when the fire was about to spill over to the funeral parlour next door. On the other building at the corner there, fire brigade responded when the fire threatened the business below. It is like the waited for foreign-owned businesses to be burnt and only protected those owned by locals,” said Nic, who said he was a former lecturer.
He said it would cost him more than a million rand to repair his guesthouses.
A taxi operator, who asked to remain anonymous, told the African News Agency (ANA) that reports doing the rounds that an alleged nyaope addict stole a radio from a minibus taxi which sparked the violence were false. He said the incident was related to drugs.
“This is all about drug dealing it is not about a stolen radio. We have seen nyaope being sold openly at the taxi rank, the nyaope boys are now attacking and killing people including operators to feed their habit.
“A taxi driver was kidnapped allegedly by nyaope addicts on December 15 and was found in the bushes on December 27, he was taken to the hospital where he died on January 3. Two taxi drivers were attacked, on January 6, on Sunday operators decided to act, they went to Boitekong and caught two suspected gang members, one was set alight,” he said.
“On Monday some taxi operators sent a nyaope boy to buy it, when he came back they took him to the drug dealer, he led them to Rustenburg Noord where a large quantity of nyaope was found. The police came … took the nyaope and handed it back to the dealer, and arrested two of the taxi operators. That is when we decided to smoke out all drug dens in Rustenburg.”
Mbalula urged the police to root out acts of criminality in communities, in particular, brothels where the future of young women gets destroyed. His call comes days after shutting down three brothels in the Eastern Cape.
“We cannot coexist with criminals. Police must smoke criminals out of our communities but our people must work closely with the police. If the local police fail them, they must escalate the matter. There are many people of goodwill, we need to pull in one direction and comprehensively respond against acts of crime,” Mbalula said.
He has instructed police to bring order in Rustenburg and work with the people to fight crime.
North West police spokesperson, Brigadier Sebata Mokgowabone said the area was calm in the afternoon. He added that police had not had a breakthrough in terms of arrests.
“We have not made any arrests so far. At this stage, about six buildings were damaged but we are not sure how much they will cost to repair,” he said.
Mokgowabone said there were no reported injuries as a result of the protest.
“We have not had reports of injuries at the current moment. We will continue to monitor the situation. We will deploy our officers to the area until normality returns,” he said.