Pretoria: Minister Nathi Mthethwa says the police will continue to mount operations and increase their presence in various areas around KwaNongoma, in a bid to target various hotspots, including hostels.
“We will deploy more police officers in these affected areas and call upon you as communities to work with the police, through the provision of any information that can lead to the apprehension of these perpetrators,” Mthethwa said on Friday at a prayer meeting in the area.
The prayer meeting comes in the wake of an on-going conflict between the communities of Matshamhlophe, Sigubudu and eMacekaneni, KwaNongoma.
The conflict, which is believed to have started as a dispute between two families, has escalated, claiming 20 lives since December last year. It has disrupted normal life and schooling in these areas, with 1 486 learners being negatively impacted.
The conflict has also led to community members fleeing their homes, with some reportedly sleeping in the bush.
The minister said detectives and crime intelligence were working around the clock to solve all reported cases in the area, which he said were pure acts of criminality.
“Whilst it is appreciated that police would arrest the ‘executors’ or those who actually pull the triggers, the shift must now be towards the masterminds and the plotters of these killings. We must target those who have the money to buy the assassins. We are confident that the arrests of these masterminds are imminent.”
Mthethwa said one of the problems facing the province was the proliferation of illegal firearms that are in circulation, which in turn impedes policing and escalates incidents of crime.
“As part of our interventions, we have now intensified our operations, which resulted in thousands of these firearms being confiscated and suspects arrested.”
Last month, he said SAPS destroyed over 36 000 illegal firearms and of this total, 17 746 were from KwaZulu-Natal.
The other identified challenge was around what he called “inflammatory statements” that were often made via media platforms, which have the potential to cause tensions at grassroots level.
“As political and community leaders, we need to recognize that reckless statements that instigate violence, animosity and anarchy were part of our sad past, where lots of innocent lives were lost. We dare not go back to this scary and sad past,” Mthethwa said.
He called on the community to work with police to end these killings.