New-age gangsters turn once alluring Seshego into a war zone

Johannesburg – Contrary to the popular fairytale that Seshego se botse boshego (Seshego is alluring in the evening), the largest township in Limpopo is a criminal underworld of blood-curdling proportions.

Boys as young as 14 have launched a reign of terror and crime that has spiraled out of control as criminals operate with impunity, taking advantage of the laxity of the police.

The hometown of EFF leader Julius Malema and Afro-pop songstress Judith Sephuma is marred by dangerous gangs who are frequently embroiled in turf wars.

Though they are mostly teenagers and at times just underage, these young men are heavily armed like a nation heading to war.

They run amok armed with guns, knives, screwdrivers, machetes, knobkerries, pangas, arrows, sjamboks, and other lethal weapons, instilling fear in the community.

Members of the community say they are living in fear of gangsters from the notorious Burial 13, Ma-Zulu, Matekie, Ma-Wrong Turn, Ma24, Masokolara, Ma50Cents and the Westside gangs.

Despite their age, the feared local hooligans are said to be capable of brutal murders, rapes, burglaries, muggings, armed robberies, and stabbings.

Bearing the full brunt of these gangs are residents of Seshego, Blood River, Makgofe, Madiba Park, Luthuli Park, Marikana, and other RDP settlements outside Polokwane.

Seshego has previously been under the yoke of the 24 Jump Street gang, paving a path for the upcoming generation of gangs. Ahead of the Fifa World Cup in 2010, a group of taxi operators organized themselves and meted out justice on the gang members.

Mike Mabotja, a taxi operator back then, said the decision to take the law into their own hands as a result of the ineffective police.

The community forum tries to keep an eye as gangs terrorise the community of Seshego in Limpopo. / Moyahabo Mabeba

Mabotja said: “We were fed-up about these young boys. They were terrorizing us day and night. So we decided to arm ourselves with pick handles and hunted them down.”

Momentarily, peace descended on Seshego and the surrounding outskirts.

But after these anti-crime busters lowered their guard, a spade of crime resurfaced.

For these young ruffians, the Seshego police station is a mere kindergarten and the magistrate’s court is a legal pep talk where they walk free after being given a slap on the wrist.

A police warrant officer who opted to remain anonymous because he is not a spokesperson and for fear of reprisal said the station is overwhelmed.

She said: “First, we receive lots of call-ups for housebreakings and domestic violence. We are understaffed and have few resources.

“Sometimes it is just impossible to take the fight to these gang members.”

Sello “Scallo” Manamela, 18, popularly known as “Boko Haram” among his circle of friends in the gang world, said the formation of gangs is a result of bullying at schools and drinking joints.

He said: “There are lots of things happening at schools and teachers are not aware of. There is bullying, which forces us to defend ourselves. Others are fighting for clients in the drug trade. That’s why most learners go to school armed with dangerous weapons.”

Naki Ramokgopa, a resident of Zone 3 New Town, said he supports “mob justice”.

“Crime in Seshego has gone too far. The police are clearly out of their depth.”

Concerned residents have since decided to establish the Seshego Community Against Gangsterism And Crime (Scagac). Vincent Kunutu, the Scagac leader, said that the anti-crime unit aimed to reclaim the township.

“Our key mandate is to ensure a crime-free neighborhood where we apprehend these criminal elements and punish them the way we see fit before handing them to the police.”

Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo, the spokesperson for the Limpopo police, dismissed claims that the police are ineffective.

“The police are doing everything in their power to fight crime. We arrest criminals and what happens in the courts of law is not within our bounds,” said Mojapelo.

“Another thing which civilians should know is that taking the law into their own hands also makes them criminals.”

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Moyahabo Mabeba

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