Police launch manhunt for tavern gunmen

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Police have launched a manhunt for a group of gunmen who shot and killed 15 people at a tavern at Nomzamo Informal Settlement in Orlando, Soweto on Sunday.

The men armed with rifles and 9mm pistols allegedly stormed the tavern around midnight and started shooting randomly at patrons. Eight more people have been injured. Three of them are said to be critical.

Some residents woke up to the news that their loved ones were involved in the tragedy.

“I heard the gunshots, I was sleeping. Then I was woken up by a phone call. When I arrived, Sithembiso had been taken to hospital and his little brother was already declared dead on the scene. Around 6 in the morning, I received a call from the hospital that Sithembiso also didn’t make it. The little brother didn’t even drink, he was just there to play pool.”

Proliferation of firearms in Gauteng central to the rise in mass shootings: MEC 

The Mjoli siblings were among those who lost their lives in the tragedy. Their uncle, Mbuyiseni Mjoli, says they are struggling to come to terms with their loss. 13 people were declared dead on the scene. The death toll later rose to 15.

Gauteng Community Safety MEC Faith Mazibuko expresses her shock and sent condolences to the affected families.

“It is confirmed now that 15 have passed on. Two have just died now in hospital. What is sad is that it’s men and women that lost their lives. On behalf of the Gauteng government, we would like to send our condolences. About 8 people are in hospital, 3 are in a critical condition,” says Mazibuko.

Katlehong tavern shooting

A number of people were also ambushed and shot at a tavern in a separate incident in Katlehong, East Rand. Gauteng Police Commissioner, Elias Mawela, says the province has a gun problem.

“Yes, we do have a problem with the proliferation of firearms. No doubt about it. Based on the level of firearms we are facing here in Gauteng and the level of crimes. The CITs (cash in transit heists) are a problem in Gauteng. Business and house robberies and just random murders. Gauteng, we were not featuring hard in terms of the murders it was KZN and Western Cape.”

Pietermaritzburg shooting

On Saturday night, in another tavern shooting in Pietermaritzburg, four people were killed and eight others were wounded.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed his shock and has sent condolences to the families of those who died in the incidents.

‘Tighten laws governing firearms’

The South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO) in Gauteng has urged the government to tighten the laws governing firearms.

SANCO representative for the region Chris Malematja says, “We want to call upon the law enforcement with the assistance of the community to bring the perpetrators to book. It is of real disappointment that in a new democratic South Africa people can still ambush people who are not doing anything wrong, who are just enjoying themselves. We call upon the minister of Police to reinforce the regulations on these illegal guns and we ensure that those who are found to have illegal guns are having harsh sentences. We further want to speak to those who are operating taverns to ensure they have good security that is able to protect those going there for leisure.”

 Freedom Plus leader Pieter Groenewald weighs in on the shootings:

Liquor board weighs in

Residents in the area say they are used to hearing gunshots at night. The National Liquor Traders says taverns should be places where patrons can socialise and enjoy alcoholic beverages in a safe environment. National Liquor Traders Convener, Lucky Ntimane, says the perpetrators must be brought to book swiftly to prevent any further incidents.

“The NLT is concerned for the security of its traders and patrons. The NLT has learned with sadness of another loss of lives at a tavern in Soweto. We call on the police to investigate fully the circumstances that led to this tragedy. This is of great concern and the perpetrators must be brought to book to prevent any further incidents,” Ntimane says.