Police Minister Bheki Cele has vowed to root out criminal activities and police officers believed to be working with criminals in Osizweni township in Newcastle, in northern KwaZulu-Natal. Cele led police raids at drug dens and roadblocks in the area.

Osizweni has been in the news for gang-related crime and violence, which have claimed the lives of six youths since August. Locals say they are terrorised by two rival youth gangs, known as the Last Warnings and Juveniles.

Multi-disciplinary police units combed the township in an effort to root out crime believed to be perpetuated mostly by the gangs. The three-day clean-up operation, which started on Thursday, led to the arrest of about 200 people, some who were wanted for serious offences. Minister Cele says they have beefed up policing in the area to ensure the safety of the community.

“They instructed us to clean this place, we agreed with Provincial Commissioner that they will be operations here, we have been here since Thursday we have run good operations where we have  a number of our people on the ground but as you can see now we got three roadblocks on different places simultaneously since we started 120 people have been arrested on the last two days one major problem that we have to pursue here is drug issue we are finding a lot of drugs maybe this kind of gangsterism and this violence we see here comes from drugs.”

Cele also revealed that they have seized a number of illegal firearms and drugs during the operations.

“In just one local bus we found a lot of dagga in it that bus works between this place and Nongoma but we have also found some firearms that are illegal people have been arrested for outstanding rape cases, arrested for malicious damage to property, there is a lot of malicious damage to property here, and GBH there is lot of it we believe that having collected outstanding 120 people in this last two days, we will be able to find exactly those we want but we will also be able to make the impact that the cases are reduced.”

Cele calls for probe into allegations of police involvement in crime at Osizweni:

Two weeks ago – Cele held an imbizo in the area – where communities called for the tightening of police control in the area. Cele says a permanent solution will be collaboration between government and community members.

“There are two ways of permanent solution is to deal with the communities themselves so that they become part of the solution these are young kids when you talk about these people so the parents and the community must contribute but Provincial Commissioner is here they complained about our own members sometimes that they work with criminals there is an investigation we will not hesitate to take those people to the disciplinary processes remove them if we need to remove them or put them in prison if we find that they have committed crime.”

Residents refused to comment about the police operations for their own safety.