Gender-based violence, rape, murder and drunken driving marred the Festive Season as Police and the Department of Transport and Community Safety highlighted these criminal offences as challenges they had to face during this period.
According to Police an upsurge was seen in especially contact crimes such as rape, assault and general attacks on people on the premises of liquor outlets or shebeens or while they were leaving the outlets across the province. Domestic violence and incidents relating to the death of women or children were also highlighted as problematic while hijackings in the Tzaneen and Letsitele areas were also seen to be taking a hike.
The Department of Transport and Community Safety indicated that they believed the number of road fatalities might look better than the previous year but that a high number of accidents since the beginning of January are likely to jeopardise the figures.
Highlighted criminal activities
In Polokwane several incidents were reported and according to Provincial Police Communications Head Motlafela Mojapelo the peak period of the Festive Season started with the discovery of the mutilated body of Patrick Langa (70) next to the new Peter Mokaba Stadium on 12 December. He indicated that the victim of Newcastle in KwaZulu-Natal allegedly visited a church in Seshego. Some of his body parts had been removed and Police suspect a ritual killing.
Reports were also received about alleged violence in Westenburg during the same period.
According to Mojapelo taxi operators allegedly targeted so-called drug dealers in the neighbourhood. In the process a resident who reportedly tried to stop the taxi operators by blocking their way with his car resulted in his car being set alight.
A case of malicious damage to property was registered.
On 30 December information was received about a gang of armed robbers targeting businesses in Ext 44 and in Ladanna. Mojapelo could not provide any information about the alleged gang and could only confirm one of the robberies committed at a supermarket in Ladanna where an undisclosed amount of cash was robbed.
The New Year was rung in with the stabbing of Northern Academy Secondary School learner, Thoriso Kgomo (18) in Zone 3, Seshego on 2 January. Thoriso was admitted at Netcare Pholoso’s Intensive Care Unit where he succumbed to his injuries on Sunday. See story elsewhere.
On the same day a National Security officer was allegedly shot and robbed of his service pistol in Ladanna.
Mojapelo indicated that a case of armed robbery and attempted murder was being investigated. He alleged that the guard was sitting in his company vehicle when he was approached by a suspect who demanded his service pistol. Unexpectedly a grey Nissan sedan pulled up to the guard’s vehicle and a shot was fired, hitting the guard in the upper abdomen. Mojapelo further indicated that the suspect had opened the security vehicle’s door, took the guard’s pistol and fled with the other suspects in the Nissan.
He added that the security officer was recovering well in a local hospital.
Elsewhere in the province Police also had to address major issues. A truck transporting copper from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Durban was hijacked along the N1 outside Musina on 13 December. It is alleged that the driver, who had his wife as passenger, was pulled over by three suspects wearing national traffic Police uniforms and displaying blue lights on their vehicle. The victims were forced into the back of the truck and later dumped on a gravel road near Doreen. During investigations Police only found the abandoned truck along the Venetia road but the trailer carrying the copper remains missing, according to Mojapelo.
Police issued a warning on 15 December that parents should not let their children swim without supervision after a 14-year-old boy had drowned while swimming in an irrigation dam with his friends on a farm outside Groblersdal.
On 23 December Police discovered the carcasses of 16 heads of cattle that had been slaughtered at Hlanganani outside Giyani. Brand marks on the animals allowed to Police to trace the owner who estimated his loss at R150 000.
Meanwhile a 63-year-old father was arrested for allegedly killing his 35-year-old son with an axe after they were reportedly drinking in Ga-Ledwaba village outside Lebowakgomo on 23 December. A 28-year-old suspect was arrested outside Groblersdal for being in possession of a stolen Police firearm and ammunition, two grenades, handcuffs and a Police reflector jacket and bulletproof vest on 28 December. A woman and her two sons were arrested for allegedly killing their husband and dad after allegedly accusing him of witchcraft outside Giyani on 1 January. A female nurse and male social worker were found dead in their apartment in Tom Burke on 3 January. On 4 January a truck driver was killed and two crew members seriously injured when the truck was allegedly petrol bombed in Jane Furse and the bodies of a mother and her four-year-old son were found next to a graveyard in Thohoyandou on the same day.
Mojapelo reiterated that operations to fight crime will continue after the Festive Season. “We will continue to maintain high visibility across the province and continue to monitor hotspots,” Mojapelo said.
Several lives lost on roads
Though preliminary road fatality figures looked better during December when compared to the previous year, a high number of accidents reported during January might have jeopardised the outcome the department hoped for.
Departmental spokesperson Joel Seabi indicated that statistics on road fatalities cannot be disclosed as the national department will do so in due course. He indeed remarked that driving under the influence alcohol remained the biggest problem across the province.
“From the beginning of December until Christmas Day we arrested a total of 382 drunken drivers. Drinking and driving remains a big issue amongst motorists and traffic officers will continue to test them and prosecute them if they test positive for being over the legal limit,” Seabi said.
The figure means that 15 drivers on average were arrested for drunken driving per day. When looking at the accidents reported Seabi indicated that the province experienced an increase in accidents during the start of the new year.
Five people were killed during a collision between a fuel tanker and a hatchback on the N1 South outside Polokwane on 1 January. Four people were certified dead on the scene while the fifth victim later succumbed to his injuries in hospital. The tanker caught fire in the process and the driver suffered burn wounds and was taken to a local hospital for treatment.
The next day two people were killed in a collision between two vehicles on the N1 South outside Mokopane. It is alleged that the two vehicles were travelling from north to south when the driver of a Land Cruiser which was also pulling a trailer lost control of the vehicle causing it to overturn. The trailer detached in the process and collided with the second vehicle. Two people in the Land Cruiser were certified dead on the scene. A two-year-old child who was a passenger in the Land Cruiser, died in a hospital in Polokwane later.
On Sunday three people were killed when a Hyundai minibus overturned on the N1 outside Mookgophong. It is alleged that the vehicle had a puncture resulting in the driver to lose control causing the vehicle to overturn. Eight others suffered injuries and were taken to a local hospital.
An incident of a vehicle that burst through a wall in Dorp Street on 28 December was also reported. It is alleged that the driver of the vehicle was allegedly making so-called doughnuts when he lost control of the vehicle.
Story: RC Myburgh