The Yeoville Community Policing Forum has reiterated its urgent call for more police reinforcements to help fight the war on drugs and petty crime in the densely populated Johannesburg surburb.
This follows a recent murder of a 30-year-old Zimbabwean “security guard” who was stabbed outside an alleged drug house on 95 Hunter street two weeks ago.
While the motive behind the murder of Washington Gama, a Zimbabwean national, affectionately known as “Bobo” is still unclear, many suspect his killing was caused by a drug related altercation, involving the stolen phone of a Congolese Uber Eats driver.
Residents of Hunter street allege that a man driving a scooter approached 95 Hunter early in the morning on Tuesday, the 14th of September. He had apparently traced his stolen phone to the house and had gone there to retrieve it.
While he was inside searching for it he was alerted that thieves had stolen an Uber eats order from the delivery box on his scooter parked outside.
Some eyewitnesses say the Congolese man left without his phone but promised to return later.
Others allege that when the same man returned and found Bobo standing outside the gate, an altercation about a key to one of the rooms inside 95 Hunter Street, led to the Congolese man stabbing him three times on his chest just below his heart.
Bobo died on the way to the hospital at around 10am that same morning.
Bobo’s friend, Trust Dube who works at the Piccadilly car-wash opposite 95 Hunter Street said he along with other community members chased down the Congolese man who had stabbed Bobo until he was found hiding inside the ceiling in one of Yeoville’s flats by the police.
The Congolese man was arrested and taken to the Johannesburg Prison, also known as Sun City which houses inmates with sentences of no less than ten years.
Yet Yeoville residents were not convinced by this. “He’ll be out again the next day” they all chimed in. Insinuating that Yeoville police were corrupt and corruptible.
Bobo’s aunt Precious Gama says the family is devasted by Bobo’s death. She says even though she knew that he was working as a security guard at 95 Hunter street, Bobo promised her that he did not sell or use drugs sold there including the popular highly addictive drug among black youth, called “Nyaope”. It’s a cocktail of low grade heroin, cannabis, antiretroviral drugs and other materials added as bulking agents.
“I lived with Bobo before he moved out to go work there. I asked him why he worked at such a place and he said he had no choice. The work provided accommodation and an income” she said. “I don’t know much about what else he did, because I don’t live that life,” she emphasized.
Bobo moved to South Africa in 2005 with his family from neighbouring Zimbabwe.
But many residents say that Bobo was not an innocent victim. They claim he was also part of the problem. A neighbour who lives opposite 95 Hunter street says Bobo had criminal tendencies.
She claimed that he either robbed people of their phones for drugs or assisted “nyaope boys” who used 95 Hunter street as a hiding place to exchange phones for drugs which then empowered them to commit more crimes for more drugs.
Even Uber drivers are afraid to drive on Hunter street.
Inside 95 Hunter Street, Bobo shared a room with his girlfriend, a light-skinned short woman who goes by the name, Michelle.
Her eyes puffy and red from crying all morning, she explained that they just moved to 95 Hunter street five months ago and that life was going well for them. Now she had no place to stay and no boyfriend to lean on.
“I don’t know why Bobo had to die,” she said through, sniffs and tears.
95 Hunter street is officially listed as a B&B business but looks nothing like it inside.
“It’s not suitable for human habitation” exclaimed the Chairperson of the Yeoville Community Policing Forum, Joseph Dube.
EFF Party representatives were some of the first respondents to inspect the scene of the crime. As soon as they arrived, they ordered everyone living in 95 Hunter street to evacuate the house since someone living there had died, even though Bobo had been stabbed outside on the street.
At least five residents came out with their belongings; they crouched outside the pavement bewildered and wondering where to go next while representatives from the Yeoville Zero Crime Forum Affiliated with the ANC were discussing what to do about securing the property once empty.
The EFF representatives said drug houses like 95 Hunter street should be evacuated and homeless South Africans be allowed to occupy them.
Leaving them vacant would only increase crime in the area.
They said it’s not the EFF’s policy to conduct illegal occupations but rather it was the community requesting that something be done about drug lords terrorising people in Yeoville.
More ANC representatives joined the crime scene late in the afternoon. They were also there to inspect the now vacant scene of the crime and possibly bring in their comrades to occupy.
They stood next to the EFF in saying that homeless South Africans should move in. This will help reduce crime levels which were spiralling out of control.
Many residents in Yeoville say they don’t feel safe anymore, as anything can happen anytime.
Some of them asked for the house to be burnt or be shut down completely.
Deputy Secretary of the EFF branch in Yeoville Peter Moshosho said drug houses like these are littered all over Yeoville.
On Rocky street especially, drugs are selling like hot cakes, he said.
This needs to be stopped.
“This house must be closed; they sell drugs here and these Nyaope boys who steal our phones can’t continue here, they must be chased out,” he said even though no drugs were known to be found on the premises on that day.
Talk of closing down the house made Markos Ashoro, an Ethiopian spaza shop owner renting space in the same property very nervous.
“They cannot burn or close this place down. I have a family to support. I have four children who are still going to school and we all depend on income from this shop to survive” he said, his arms folded.
Ashoro has been running his “Happy Shop” selling basic groceries in the community for ten years. He knew, Bobo, who he called his best friend.
He says he started his business by going house to house selling curtains until he raised enough money to open the Happy Shop.
Near the entrance of 95 Hunter street two young primary school going girls in uniform chatted happily while counting sweets they bought from Oshoro’s Happy Shop, oblivious to the fact that they are standing near a murder scene or that just a few meters away known drug dealers were lurking, searching for new customers.
Residents evicted from the 95 hunter street eventually took their belongings next door, to resettle in another alleged drug house.
Inside it we found a security guard who told us that they know nothing about drugs being sold at the premises.
“We only sell weed,“ he said, covering his face with a mask.
On our way out we found a customer waiting at the back of the house.
He was reclining on a plastic chair leaning on steel table breathing heavily, but slowly and deliberately. Fresh pink scars with spots of blood still visible, patched several parts of his face, nose and head.
His name was Liberty Sibanda, he’d come to Hunter street to collect his phone after a man attempting to rob him hit him with a brick outside the fire station three days earlier on Saturday the 11th of September.
He said he didn’t see it coming. He’d been drunk when the incident happened but nothing was stolen since he had no phone or money on him at the time.
‘They wanted to steal my phone,’ he said using all his strength to pronounce each word. His voice breaking mid-breath. “I had kept my phone here” he said, looking as if he was about to faint.
Sibanda didn’t seek medical help after the incident, opting to lock himself in his house until the pain subsided. He had no money to consult a doctor.
He died ten days later on Friday, 24th of September.
Two years ago, on the 15th of June 2019 Police Minister Bheki Cele held a ministerial Imbizo aimed at resolving drug related crimes in Yeoville after increased tensions between locals and foreign nationals over drugs, petty crime and police corruption. Cele promised to clean-up Yeoville.
“We commit ourselves, that life will be normalised in Yeoville again” he said, apologising to the Yeoville community for taking too long to respond to their requests for increased policing.
Yet, the Chairperson of the Yeoville Community Policing Forum, Joseph Dube says nothing has been done since then.