By ANNA MAJAVU
Disturbed by the gruesome killings of local ‘amaphara’ (petty criminals), allegedly by the Grahamstown Anti-Crime group, Makhanda residents are speaking out against rising levels of vigilantism.
The “Grahamstown Anti-Crime” Facebook group has almost 40 000 members and is run by Luyanda Sakata, a former ANC ward councillor in Grahamstown, also known as “Honey”. But Sakata is now out on R500 bail, charged with murdering a young man who had been accused of housebreaking and theft.
A discussion is also underway on the Facebook group about the murder of a second young man. Both victims’ identities are known to Grocott’s Mail.
Grocott’s Mail met with several residents from different parts of the town who wanted to remain anonymous for fear of being targeted by the Anti-Crime group, who they say does not tolerate criticism.
“The Anti-Crime group beats young people to death. They are fighting crime with crime now because if they kill, they are murderers” said another source.
Another source said: “Anti-Crime was good when it started, like a neighbourhood watch. It tried to keep crime levels down in the town. But now they beat people up without any evidence or process. Many people have left the group because of this”.
“Anti-Crime became vigilantes. They even threaten people when we tell them to stop beating up teenagers” said another.
An eyewitness to the murder of one recent victim said the young man was beaten to death even though there was no evidence that he had committed a crime.
“A house was burgled. The child of the homeowner saw the robber’s back, but didn’t see his face. Then a certain guy was identified as the criminal because he wears that same jacket. But there are other people who also wear that jacket” said the source.
“One night when it was dark during loadshedding, Anti-Crime beat the suspect badly to make him confess to the crime but he insisted that it wasn’t him. They chased him to his grandmother’s house and he hid under the bed. But they threw boiling water at him until he came out” the source said.
About four members of the Anti-Crime group allegedly then beat the victim to death. By the time community members gathered, the eye witness says the young man was lying immobile on the ground.
The source said the people who gathered were told by the assailants that nobody should call the ambulance until after the victim had died because they were tired of his crimes. The victim was certified dead by paramedics when they arrived.
Makhanda police did not reply to questions, but Sakata confirmed that he and other members of the Anti-Crime group had been charged with murder over the death in question, and released on bail of R500 each.
Sakata told Grocott’s Mail that he was innocent. “I have never raised a hand to anyone. I have never fought in my life” Sakata said.
“We want to bring back the confidence that people have in police but we have so many enemies because the Anti-Crime group became so popular in our townships. We have so many successful stories. We have been working very hard and are liked by many people. Our enemies now are trying to bring us down” Sakata said.
He said the Anti-Crime group handed all suspected criminals over to the police and that there were other anti-crime groups in the town who were assaulting suspected criminals. He said his group planned to buy uniforms so that the public could identify them as the legitimate Anti-Crime group.
Sakata insisted that “people” in the town also had a political agenda against him, and said he would soon reveal their identities.
However, when asked why the police had charged him with murder over the recent killing if he was not at the home of the victim on the night of the murder, Sakata was reluctant to discuss his alibi saying he had not had time to give consideration to the matter.