Police hot on heels of Soweto tavern massacre suspects

Monday, July 11, 2022

Police Minister Bheki Cele says police are hot on the heels of the suspects that mowed down 15 people at a tavern in Soweto on Saturday evening.

In the meantime, the South African Police (SAPS) will on Monday deploy the Tactical Response Team and Public Order Police unit.

Cele made the announcement during a community engagement in Orlando, Soweto, on Monday. This after a shooting at the Nomzamo informal settlement in Orlando East. The shooting was one of three mass killings in South Africa over the weekend.

Another two people were shot and killed at a tavern in Katlehong. On the same night, four people were shot dead and eight others injured when gunmen stormed a Pietermaritzburg tavern and opened fire.

Cele said the deaths were “painful”, especially as the deceased people were young.

“They were killed by criminals. It is our job to find out what happened. A task team has been formed to find the perpetrators. They will have to account for their actions. They will have to explain why they did what they did... why the brutality,” he said.

At the scene, police recovered 135 empty AK47 cartridges. Cele said the assailants wanted to “inflict maximum harm”.

Preliminary investigations have revealed that the five people arrived at the tavern in a taxi.

“I’ll stop there, but a picture is emerging. What I can guarantee is they will be arrested, it’s only a matter of when,” he said.

On the alleged slow police response to the incident, he said this was a concern.  

“We will deploy boots on the ground and not at the (Orlando) station. TRT to be deployed to the area… today when we go to bed, they’ll already be here.

“When they arrive, you will feel their presence. Please let them work. We will increase visibility. It can’t be criminals ruling the streets,” he told the community.

Residents raised a series of issues which they said were contributing to crime in the area. Among them was that there had been no electricity in the area for over two years. As a result, they said, police were reluctant to patrol the area at night.

One resident said: “Police visibility is only during the day. Fix electricity and there will be order here. Here gun shots ring out like we are in a warzone.”

Another concern was that the Orlando police station was largely manned by police officers with a tribalistic agenda.

“We catch criminals but police release them despite the criminals being caught with the evidence. We get mugged and killed in this place.

“They (police) sell drugs and work with drug dealers. Minister Cele, please help us. We are sick and tired of the Orlando Police station. Please help us.”

Responding, the Minister said the community’s concerns would receive urgent attention.  

“The issue of police attitude along tribal lines in Soweto troubles me… It was the same thing in Jabulani a few weeks ago. On the crime issues – no matter their tribe - if they are police officers, they have to do their job regardless. You serve the community regardless of language.”

He revealed that five SAPS vehicles would be deployed in Orlando.

Nationally, the police head count has declined by about 20 000 personnel.

“In 2010, there were 195 000 officers, today there are 176 000. We didn’t recruit in the past two years because of COVID-19,” the Minister said, adding that 10 000 recruits were being trained at SAPS academies to address the shortage.

Cele said the SAPS in Gauteng would soon have to seal off the Nomzamo area to curb the apparent proliferation of guns in the area.

“We have to seal this place and [conduct] door-to-door searches for these illegal guns. Those who have guns - surrender,” he urged.

He said it was worrying that there were 239 taverns and 22 bottle stores in Orlando.

“This is more than clinics, schools and churches put together. Youths will need to be given alternatives, it can’t just be alcohol,” he said. – SAnews.gov.za