Joe Slovo on edge after double killing

Residents gather around a shop discussing the issue of extortion payments in the wake of a mass shooting in Joe Slovo last year that is believed to have been linked to a protection racket.

Joe Slovo is on edge after a double killing there last week.

Two men, Abongile Siphuye and Thulani Habe, were shot and killed in the neighbourhood on Saturday April 10, around 8pm. Mr Siphuye was a taxi owner and was known as “Bori”. According to residents, his older brother is also a taxi owner and owns a tavern.

Residents fear the killings could be linked to claims that an extortion syndicate is preying on the neighbourhood. Several protection rackets are known to operate in the city, with criminals squeezing businesses and wealthy residents for a “protection fee”.

Milnerton SAPS confirmed they were investigating a double murder, but police spokeswoman Constable Bongeka Mdaka said the motive for the killings was so far unknown.

The victims had been in a car on Freedom Way when two men had shot them, she said.

“One of the victims ran out while being shot but was struck again. Seventeen empty bullet shells were found on the crime scene, and the investigation is still under way, with no arrests made at this point. The motive is unknown at this stage but nothing was stolen from the scene, so it was not a random shooting. They were probably targeted,” she said.

Provincial SAPS spokeswoman Brigadier Novela Potelwa said previously that it was hard for police to investigate the protection rackets because information came to them third hand and the victims were seldom prepared to come forward.

The latest killings have fearful residents drawing comparisons to the bloody night in October last year when six men shot five people dead in the community (“Township’s night of terror,” Tabletalk, October 14, 2020). Police later arrested Thulani Mbija, 26, on five counts of murder (“Cops make arrest in mass shooting case,” Tabletalk, October 21, 2020). He last appeared in court on Thursday April 15, according to SAPS provincial spokeswoman Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana.

“He is remanded in custody. He is currently the only suspect in the case,” she said.

Soon after the five killings, shop owners and residents reported that criminals were running a protection racket in the area (“Joe Slovo shop owners complain about extortion,” Tabletalk October 28, 2020).

A Joe Slovo resident, who did not want to be named as she fears for her safety, said the latest killings were like an “assassination”.

She added: “It’s very suspicious… That is why the community is scared because we don’t even know if we are part of a war. We lost five people last year to senseless violence. I’m urging the government to do something about this.”

Another resident, Linda Vena, said: “I just want the two people who were killed senselessly to be remembered by their loved ones and hopefully there will be justice in this case. I know the community is scared because it’s unusual that we’ve had around eight murders in our community since October last year. And it’s all people that we know, it’s not strangers. But people must let police do their jobs.”

In September last year the Western Cape extortion steering committee was formed because of concerns, according to Police Ministry spokeswoman Lirandzu Themba, “from private individuals and businesses being coerced into paying what is called protection fees”. The committee is made up of national and provincial government, SAPS and the City of Cape Town.

Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz, said: “We have been advocating the establishment of the extortion steering committee so that the effects that extortion have on our communities can be brought under control and ultimately eradicated. This ranges from targeting business owners, including foreign nationals, to the targeting of landlords of backyard dwellers in our communities.

“We congratulate the SAPS on the strides they have already made, such as the various arrests made in connection with the kidnapping of business owners and reiterate our support for the extortion steering committee and the work that it does.”

A memorial service for Mr Siphuye and Mr Habe was due to be held at the Joe Slovo Sport and Recreation Centre on Tuesday 5pm.

Tabletalk approached one of Mr Siphuye’s relatives for comment, but she said the family would only consider talking to the media after the memorial service. We were unable to reach Mr Habe’s family for comment.