Residents in Philippi’s Cosovo informal settlement mobbed two police officers attempting to arrest two teen murder suspects on Wednesday, ensuring their escape.
The attempted arrests and subsequent clash followed the death of two teen gang members in Philippi since the weekend, with eyewitnesses to the murders saying gang members ‘drank’ their victim’s blood and one casually returned to remove an axe left embedded in the victim’s skull.
The latest spate of killings began on Saturday when 17-year-old Vura gang member Thando Woma was killed in Cosovo, allegedly by Vato members.
Then on Tuesday afternoon, in an apparent revenge attack, suspected Vato gang member Visicelo Betye was allegedly killed by a group of about 50 Vura gang members in Cosovo, although the Vura gang turf is in adjacent Samora Machel.
But yesterday when two detectives went to Cosovo to arrest three suspects for Betye’s murder, a group of about five women followed them and start shouting, accusing the police of taking sides in a teen gang war that has been running for about three years.
The officers took two suspects into custody in the police car but by the time they got to the home of the third suspect, they were surrounded by more residents who mobbed the officers and opened the police car doors. By the time back-up arrived, all three suspects had escaped in the melee.
The residents insisted the police must first arrest members of the Vato gang and accused police of siding with the Vato’s.
Thando Woma’s mother Noxolisa Manya-Woma said she’s been waiting for police to update her on investigations into her son’s murder but had received no communication. Instead, she said, the tried to arrest Thando’s friends for an alleged revenge killing.
She said if police could act fast in arresting the Vato boys suspected of killing her son, the Vuras would not have sought revenge.
”I could not sit down and watch while the cops take sides. My son was killed on Saturday not far from here but cops only came once and never came back. I do not know what is happening to my son’s case, but they’re quick to arrest his friends for taking revenge,’ she said.
She said Thando joined the Vura boys last year and was wounded in a shooting in March while on his way to school in Delft.
Since then he stopped going to school.” she said
Betye’s aunt Nombuyiselo Mxoywa said, she was on her way to a shop on Tuesday when she saw a group of residents who pointed out the body of her nephew.
Mxoywa said she once heard teenagers saying her nephew was going to be killed by Vura boys once schools closed for the holidays.
“This is very painful to us, but I knew since last year that he was part of the Vato boys. We even sent him to the Eastern Cape but he came back. His mother said he stole money to come back,” said Mxoywa.
Eye-witness, Busisiwe Giladile, 28, said, she was bathing when Betye pushed open the door to her shack.
“He had a knife in his hand. I jumped out of the bath to close the door. I saw a group of more than 50 boys carrying weapons – knifes, pangas, axes, all the sharp weapons. They kicked the door open. I looked at Betye. He was bleeding. Some broke the window, I ran out naked.”
Giladile said when she returned Betye’s body was outside her shack. She said there was still an axe embedded in his head but a gang member returned to remove it.
“He pushed people aside, including Betye’s Uncle. He stood on Betye’s head and pulled the axe.” She claimed some of the Vato boys drank Betye’s blood.
Meanwhile, residents said they would continue to defend their kids until police arrest all the Vato gang members in Samora.
Police had not responded to questions by the time of going to press. – Nombulelo Damba