‘The thugs have won’: Mamelodi residents amid ‘John Wick’ Boko Haram gang shootings
Mamelodi West residents say the area is being held to ransom by gangsters, and that not a day goes by without gunshots ringing out.
“There is no difference between the Cape Flats or KwaZulu-Natal and Mamelodi currently,” said community leader and general secretary of the Sebata Kgomo movement, Apson Makaung.
This is after at least 10 fatal shootings linked to Mamelodi’s gang wars.
In the latest assassination, a man believed to be the head of the feared “Boko Haram” gang was shot dead on Tuesday afternoon.
Locals are calling the killer “John Wick” after the film franchise featuring Keanu Reeves as a vengeance killer.
“Here in Mamelodi, the thugs have won the battle against the state. They are not even afraid of police officials. Police are afraid of Boko Haram,” said Makaung.
Makaung told TimesLIVE the problem dated back several years.
“This thing started around 2014, when people started occupying municipal buildings illegally and the municipality never reacted. The so-called Boko Haram evicted hostel residents from the buildings that were actually meant for hostel residents.
“The day they were evicting hostel residents from the so-called 'Nkandla' [hostel], there were about 50 gang members carrying firearms openly in front of the police officials. Police officials never responded against them. They were just spectators like us, the community. These people decided to hijack developmental projects here in Mamelodi, [and the] municipality remains mum and police remain mum,” he said.
He said the gang had destroyed many families.
“Today, as we speak, children don’t have fathers. Some [families] have lost breadwinners and police officials have been mum,” he said.
A 46-year-old resident of Mamelodi West, who didn’t want to be named for safety reasons, said she lived near where the Boko Haram gang operates.
“There are always gunshots. When there are gunshots I check where my children are. When you cannot see your children you ask yourself: who has been shot and what might have happened?” she said.
The woman said residents were terrified.
“We are scared. Having children, even if you didn’t give birth to them, you start thinking through a mother’s pain, of what might be happening. This is how we live,” she said.
She said she had mixed emotions about the “John Wick” killings.
“What has been going on now, we hear that they are busy finishing [killing] one another. We are shocked as to what is happening. I have mixed emotions about this. I cannot say I celebrate or I don’t celebrate, because I still feel pity for those children since I am a parent,” she said.
Makaung said the gang had been terrorising street vendors in the area, demanding money from them.
“They were brutalising everybody, especially street vendors. They started next to Denlyn Mall, where there were people selling there. The day they were harassing people, they were telling them openly that ‘you pay or you go’. That thing escalated to foreign nationals, especially the Pakistani shops, to say they must collect money every month if not every week,” he said.
Referring to the so-called “John Wick” shootings, Makaung said: “We don’t know anything. We read about these things on Facebook like everybody else, to say there is someone eliminating Boko Haram and so on. Everyone was wondering who is that person eliminating these people, so they ended up adopting that movie style to say there is this John Wick eliminating people.
“It is mixed feelings from the community because others are saying let them be eliminated because they are actually troubling us. Others are not happy, especially those who lost their families. There are so many people who have lost their families because of this kind of thing,” he said.
Makaung said gunshots were the new normal in Mamelodi.
“Even the children are no longer running away, because the children next to ‘Nkandla,’ if they are playing and they hear a sound of a gun, they continue playing because this thing is normal.”
A resident who fell victim to the Boko Haram gang after being evicted from the Nkandla hostels two years ago said she still lives in fear.
“Any time they can attack us when they want money. They collect money every week at the foreigners’ shops. The bosses are now leaving, now the younger ones who they gave guns might find an opportunity to come to us and collect because now they know that a gun works in Mamelodi,” she said.