Experts say several recent high-profile murder cases have involved hired hands from KwaZulu-Natal.
The recent killing of Cape Town lawyer – Pete Mihalik – was carried out by men allegedly from the province.
There are also fears that KwaZulu-Natal has a large number of illegal firearms in the hands of criminals.
Former KwaZulu-Natal Hawks boss who is now on retirement, Johan Booysen responding to whether KwaZulu-Natal is infested with illegal fire-arms, says “The unfortunate reality is that it is indeed the case, in my experience it’s that there’s quite a lot of illegal firearms in circulation especially so in KZN.”
Booysen who worked for a number of years in the organised crime unit, says a fair number of hitmen are found in KwaZulu-Natal.
He says “I would agree with that notion, is that majority of the so-called hitmen are originally from KwaZulu-Natal. I think the recent murder of advocate Piet Mihalik in Cape Town demonstrates just that. We also had a number of incidents in the taxi industry in KwaZulu-Natal and even in Gauteng where hitmen are imported or exported from KwaZulu-Natal to do killings in other provinces.”
The retired top cop revealed that before he left the police service, he had investigated the disappearance of police service pistols at the KwaMashu police station in Durban.
Booysen says police need to tighten the fire-arm controls kept at their evidence rooms to ensure guns are not stolen.
“The reality is the majority of these illegal firearms in circulation were either stolen or robbed from people that own them legally. Another reality is when these firearms are recovered and now in possession of the police, you have some of these firearms are actually stolen from the police or even sold by the police. In one instance I can recall in KwaMashu in KZN just before I left the police we arrested a theft of over 100 firearms that were sold by a clerk from KwaMashu police station. I would recommend that the police take proper control of the firearms under their control and possession, and also the general public to make sure that they keep their firearms in a safe place.”
Minister Bheki Cele commends security forces
Earlier this week Police Minister Bheki Cele commended security forces for making swift arrests in recent high-profile cases.
Cele says police conducted the arrests well within the allocated turn-around time.
“We commend the tireless efforts of our men and women in blue who secured the swift arrest of two suspects in the murder of Cape Town lawyer, Pete Mihalik – as well as the murder suspects for the multi-murders of the Vlakfontein family. The 72-hour turnaround has been much improved. The first culprit where the lawyer was shot was arrested in the first hour after the crime was committed. The second one was arrested the same afternoon. So that is almost the same with the murder with the Vlakfontein family – where police are pushing the bar of 72-hours.”
Eleven people were killed and four others wounded in a night-time massacre on the R74 near Colenso in central KwaZulu-Natal in July this year.
The ambush occurred when members of the Ivory-Park Taxi Association were returning home after attending the funeral of a colleague in Ematimatolo near Greytown in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.
The incident shocked many as it is believed automatic weapons were used.
The issue of guns in KwaZulu-Natal, also featured greatly during the Moerane Commission of Inquiry that probed politically related killings in the province. A religious leader- Reverend Sonto Thusi- of the Umzinyathi Christian Council called for a round-up of illegal firearms.
“Fire-arms should be collected, so that at the end of the day we may see the difference because if you notice the way people are being killed; they are being shot now and again, not stabbed but shot. That shows exactly that there are many illegal firearms that are still with us. Then if government can come up with a plan of trying to recollect those illegal fire arms from us as the people especially in this province that also I believe can assist us,” says Sonto.
Law enforcement and security agencies are yet to embark on a consolidated drive to try to collect illegal firearms,that are believed to be in the hands of criminals in KwaZulu-Natal.
See the full report from Moerane Commission below: