A number of mass murders in the Eastern Cape over the past few months have left residents in the affected areas fearful and anxious. This week, 17 people were gunned down in three separate incidents in Gqeberha and Bityi near Mthatha.
The murders saw a quick response from the police with promises of swift arrests. But while the investigations are underway, law-abiding citizens are scared they might be next.
Another dark week in the Eastern Cape. 17 murders in just 5 days. The impact is widely felt as family members try to come to terms with their loss. It is a pain almost too heavy to bear.
The families of the victims of the mass murder in KwaZakhele are demanding justice. The mother of one of the deceased, Nontsikelelo Masuku, cannot believe what happened.
“My prayer is for the sake of my daughter’s life and her three children is for those who did such a horrific act to be arrested. I really pray that they will be found and placed behind bars for her sake. Oh, my dear child, I can’t believe she is no more.”
Two mass murders
The community of Bhityi near Mthatha was also rocked by two mass murders in one night. 10 lives were brutally taken. Seven youngsters at Qunu and three family members at Thantseka. This comes hardly three months after the murder of seven Mgxada family members also at Thantseka. Unathi Ncedani lost his two brothers, Sakhele and Nkululeko and another relative.
“It’s really painful to lose a loved one like this. It’s even more painful when they die in such a gruesome manner.”
The Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, visited Gqeberha, vowing that the police will find the criminals behind the Kwazakhele shooting.
“We will have to reverse this new trend here. As I am saying to you, we are also sending some national capacities in all units of police, it could be your crime intelligence, it could be your detectives. We will be adding both personal and material things that can help to reverse the situation.”
No arrests have been made in connection with the three incidents this week. Provincial community safety spokesperson, Unathi Binqose, says the proliferation of illegal firearms and their use in these murders is also of concern.
“There’s no denying the impact of illegal firearms on the prevalence of mass killing. We are seeing it in the Eastern Cape. It’s for that reason the MEC for community and safety Mr Xolile Nqatha is committing himself with every relevant authority to first cut the supply of illegal firearms in the province and then go after those illegal firearms that are in the hands of criminals.”
The communities living in the hotspots are overwhelmed by fear. They struggle to go about their daily lives, always looking over their shoulder.
Psychologist Kempi van Rooyen says the mental impact on those left behind is hard.
“What we see happening when such brutal killings happen is that people tend to live in a lot of fear, it actually grips them and they start fearing for their lives. what makes it worse is when those who did the crimes are not arrested quickly, this makes residents even more anxious, not wanting to leave their homes, cause they feel that they may be next. It’s really a sad way to live.”
This week, the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro council approved the use of 500 CCTV cameras in the townships. The metro also wants to increase police visibility in the hotspot areas. -Reporting by Yolanda Kambile in Gqeberha