Free State police MEC Butana Kompela (pictured) has told criminal gangs in the province that the government is not going to stand by watching them terrorise the community, warning gangsters who last week caused havoc in Mangaung Metro that the law will come down hard on them.
Gangs made up of mainly schoolboys fought a violent turf war in the metro’s Mangaung and Heidedal townships that left one person dead, scores of others injured, as well as property destroyed, while schools were forced to close before the police were able to put the situation under control.
Addressing a press conference on the violence, Kompela said a police crackdown had seen 19 members of the Born to Kill (BTK), Triple Six (666) and Maroma gang groups arrested for the violence.
The gangsters face a variety of charges including murder, attempted murder, assault and assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm (GBH) and possession of dangerous weapons, said Kompela.
The gangsters were denied bail when they appeared in court on Tuesday.
Kompela said the police were on top of the situation a
nd that the situation in the two townships had returned to normal, with schools and businesses there operating as usual.
“Schools will run normally and we had talks with the principals around the schools in the affected areas to tell them to lock gates and not to allow anyone in. We are on the ground and we are in charge of the province, not the gangs,” said Kompela.
The MEC said the challenge now is to find the person or people behind social network postings claiming the gangs want to kill 10 children per school in the townships around Mangaung.
He said the police have already spoken to a man that responded to the posting by writing that the community will defend itself against any attack to refrain from responding or commenting on such postings even though he did not commit a crime by responding to the threat.
“It may take some time before we find a person responsible for this but we will not tire until we find the person. The investigation to establish the source of the posting is complicated by the fact that companies owning these social networks are in other countries but with the special capacity that we have as the police we are sure to find the suspect/s,” said the MEC.
The briefing was also attended by the provincial police head Lieutenant General Simon Mpembe.
Mpembe urged members of the community to take their children to school and reiterated that social network postings that cause panic among parents, educators and learners will not be tolerated, while promising the police will apprehend the people or person behind the threatening postings.
“People must not panic, we are in control of the situation and parents should take their children to school without fear,” said Mpembe.
Petunia high School in Heidedal, Ikaelelo and Kgonyane in Mangaung, are just but some of the schools whose normal running was affected by the eruption of gang violence last week. Bu the situation at the schools was back to normal this week following the intervention by the police.