Homeless boy finds baby tossed from car

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on November 6, 2014.

A homeless boy in Braamfontein, who thought he had picked up a Checkers plastic bag filled with food and other “nice things” near Wits University, was shocked when he instead discovered the mangled body of a dead baby.

Wits University campus control director Robert Kemp said the body had been dumped from a white Volkswagen Polo driving down Jan Smuts Avenue in Johannesburg late on Tuesday night.

It was particularly cold and wet that night, and the desperate homeless youngster thought he might have found something to help him through it.

“A passing vagrant saw the packet thinking there might be something nice for him in there but then he discovered the deceased baby,” said Kemp.

The young boy immediately looked for help and quickly approached campus control officers at the Nowsell Hall residence.

Warrant Officer Richard Munyai confirmed the incident yesterday.

“A case of concealment of birth has been opened… that is basically [an] abortion,” he explained.

He added that preliminary findings revealed that “it was a stillborn baby in that plastic”.

A police investigation was underway.

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Is ANCYL backing #BringBackBhekiCele?

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on November 4, 2014. 

A crime prevention campaign launched by the ANC Youth League Tuesday, doubled up as a platform for the ‘bring back Bheki Cele’ campaign.

Bheki Cele, now deputy minister of agriculture and fisheries, was invited by the ANCYL in his capacity as an ANC national executive committee member. The event, hosted by the youth league, saw ‘Operation Wanya Tsotsi’, a call to reclaim the streeta being launched.

FILE PICTURE: Mourners call for the reinstatement of the country's former police chief Bheki Cele as they gather at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday, 1 November 2014 for the funeral of slain Bafana Bafana captain Senzo Meyiwa. Picture: Giordano Stolley/SAPA
FILE PICTURE: Mourners call for the reinstatement of the country’s former police chief Bheki Cele as they gather at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban on Saturday, 1 November 2014 for the funeral of slain Bafana Bafana captain Senzo Meyiwa. Picture: Giordano Stolley/SAPA

The crowd erupted when Cele, dressed in all black with a signature hat, entered the Vosloorus Civic Centre. A group shouted “bring back Bheki” when a question on how to fight crime was asked.

Cele called on the youth to channel the anger the country has over crime to start fighting it. “We must organise to close and squeeze the space for criminals”.

He added that communities should come together to expose criminals. “You know these people. Criminals like to talk about their loot, their money and their girls but you choose to keep quiet.”

The crime fighting campaign came after the shooting and killing of Bafana Bafana captain and Orlando Pirates goalie, Senzo Meyiwa, last week.

Cele’s attendance was seemingly in line with the call from aggrieved fans who asked for the former police commissioner to be brought back to fight crime. ​The informal campaign was trending on social network Twitter under the hastag #bringbackbhekicele last week:

https://twitter.com/Sgebzzz/status/528062660831485952

Soshanguve told to ‘speak out’ on child killer

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on October 18, 2014.

Nine year old, Veronicah Mofokeng was laid to rest today after disappearing from her father’s Soshanguve home last month. Her body was found dumped at a construction site, mere metres away from her home.

Her aunt, Jenah Lebogo said Veronicah said: “she disappeared on September 6… Her body was found on September 15″.

Lebogo explained that Veronicah’s face was burnt, making it difficult to identify her body. Buried at the site, were her clothes and used condoms.

The family only received DNA confirmation that the body was in fact Veronica’s, this week, nearly a month after the little body was found. Her killer and rapist is still at large.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa attended the funeral in Soshanguve, Tshwane today.

Mourners with images of murdered Veronicah Mofokeng on their t-shirts stand in front of her coffin during funeral proceedings in Soshunguve, 18 October 2014. Picture: Refilwe Modise
Mourners with images of murdered Veronicah Mofokeng on their t-shirts stand in front of her coffin during funeral proceedings in Soshunguve, 18 October 2014. Picture: Refilwe Modise

“The way she died broke my heart,” he said, adding that Veronicah’s killer had violated her rights as a child. He called on the community to help police find the killer and that they should “speak out”.

Gauteng Education MEC, Panyaza Lesufi was also in attendance. He said in the past 150 days that he has been in office, he has attended six funerals of children in the province. “This is a difficult and painful exercise,” he lamented.

Inconsolable teachers and learners from Nchuncheko Primary School were in attendance at the funeral service.

In recent months a number of child killings have taken place in Gauteng:

– Taegrin Morris (4) – Taegrin died after being dragged for several kilometers during the  hijacking of his mother’s car in Reiger Park. His killers are still at large.

– Curburne van Wyk  (3) – Curbune’s little body was found burnt and dumped in a mine dump in Reiger Park. He was reported missing a week prior. A man, Katlego Phoku, has been arrested.

– Luke Tibbetts (3) – Luke was shot in the back by a stray bullet. He was sitting on his mother’s lap. The bullet was supposedly meant for his uncle who was also in the car. Luke was in ICU on life support machines for a week. Two men Lindray Khakhu and Keenan Mokwena were arrested.

 

5 arrested for Gauteng mall robberies

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on Septemper 9, 2014. 

On Tuesday morning Gauteng police made their first arrests in connection to a recent spate of mall robberies in the province.

Five men aged between 24 and 44 years of age were nabbed in a police raid in Brixton and Doornfontien at 4am this morning, . The five are suspected to be involved in at least two mall robberies in the province.

Provincial commissioner of police, Lesetja Mothiba told a media briefing in Parktown that so far 11 mall robberies have rocked Gauteng.

On 22 August, a gang of robbers struck an iStore at Centurion Mall, escaping with over R1 million worth of goods. A week before a group of men robbed an iStore at Cresta shopping mall , taking an undisclosed number of cellphones and iPads. As they fled the scene they started shooting randomly, injuring an elderly man in the parking lot.

That same week a group of men robbed an iStore at Glen Shopping Mall in Glenvista, Johannesburg, shooting and injuring a security guard before they fled the scene.

FILE PIC. Members of the police walk outside the jewellery store that was robbed on 14 November 2013 in Menlyn Park shopping centre. Picture: Christine Vermooten
FILE PIC. Members of the police walk outside the jewellery store that was robbed on 14 November 2013 in Menlyn Park shopping centre. Picture: Christine Vermooten

A man was killed last week at Black Chain Shopping Centre in Soweto when five suspects stole a cash box.

On Monday evening, a cellphone store at the Glen shopping centre in Ormonde, Johannesburg, was robbed with the suspects fleeing with cellphones.

Increased Security

Mothiba said lax mall security made the robberies easier for criminals,  “some mall security is very relaxed. Some have CCTV camera’s that aren’t working or are of poor quality”.

Police are now offering a reward of R200 000 for people with information on those involved in mall robberies.

General Tebello Mosikili, deputy provincial commissioner for detective services. She revealed that police spend between R1 million and R1,5 million on rewards annually.

Police plan to work hand in hand with mall security,  management and private security companies in the coming weeks to access various malls’ security.

Mothiba said police have identified at least 12 malls that they say are “high risk”. There will be increased visibility at these malls but he did not want to scare people by identifying them.

Taegrin Morris laid to rest

NOTE: Article first appeared on The Citizen website on July 26, 2014. 

A funeral service fit for a hero was given to Taegrin Morris this morning at W. J Clement stadium in Reigar Park, Boksburg.

Teagrin Morris's (4) coffin at Reiger Park Stadium, Johannesburg, 26 July 2014, before it was laid to rest at Van Dyk Cemetries. Picture: Nigel Sibanda
Teagrin Morris’s (4) coffin at Reiger Park Stadium, Johannesburg, 26 July 2014, before it was laid to rest at Van Dyk Cemetries. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

The community gathered in their numbers to mourn the boy. Many wearing t-shirts with little Taegrin’s smiling face on the front of them, with the words “genoeg is genoeg” in red print.

Taegrin died after being dragged from a car for several kilometres when his mother’s car was hijacked last Saturday evening.

His tiny brown coffin was guarded by classmates from Geppetto Pre Primary school, who held lit candles in honour of him.

Gauteng Premier, David Makhura uttered the phrase “enough is enough” several times during his address.

“We’re deeply hurt by the manner in which the heartless killers took his life,” he said.

Makhura drew much cheer and applause when he promised the community that the criminals responsible would be found and driven out of the community.

He added that “coloured communities have been marginalised for too long,” saying a change in that paradigm was needed in Reiger Park.

Lizzie Phike – whose son was kidnapped last week when her husband was hijacked in Bronkhorstspruit – was in attendance to support the Morris family.

“They weren’t as lucky as me and I am to say sorry for that. I am hurt by what happened because the same thing could have happened to my boy,” said Phike.

In a final show of strength Taegrin’s mother, Chantel Morris decided to make the vote of thanks on behalf of her family. “If it were not for your prayers this week, we would not have made it,” she said.

Taegrin was laid to rest at the new cemeteries in Van Dyk Park in Boksburg. The entire service was paid for by provincial government.

SA NGO fighting crime in the UK

NOTE: Article first appeared in The Citizen newspaper on May 12, 2014. 

OPERATING IN LONDON AND KZN: A participant in a Khulisa Social Solutions art workshop in London. Picture: Provided.
OPERATING IN LONDON AND KZN: A participant in a Khulisa Social Solutions art workshop in London. Picture: Provided.

 South African non-profit organisation is helping to fight crime in the United Kingdom through specialised programmes.

Gugulethu Shezi, marketing and communications manager at Khulisa Social Solutions, said inner-city London and semi-rural townships in KwaZulu-Natal had much in common. They were both “communities where the youth frequently see drugs, crime and gangsterism as their only redemption”, said Shezi.

The NGO uses the commonalities between the two to implement programmes that help, “youngsters transform their lives”.

In South Africa, Khulisa focuses on marginalised youngsters in some of “the poorest, riskiest townships”, and the same formula is being used in the UK.

Some of the life skills interventions used by Khulisa include art and drama-therapy workshops, said Lisa Rowles from Khulisa’s UK branch.

“Each programme is tailored to the needs of the client group,” said Rowles, meaning that some programmes are day-long “taster sessions” while others are year-long intervention programmes.

Established in 1998 in KwaZulu-Natal with financial assistance from British donors, the NGO only opened its second branch as a charity in the UK in 2007.

NEW WAYS TO LIVE: Art workshop in London.
NEW WAYS TO LIVE: Art workshop in London.

A lot of fundraising and responding to government bids is done to keep it afloat, said Rowles.

In the UK, the “holistic” programmes the NGO uses include crime reduction programmes at schools and juvenile and adult correctional facilities which have been tracked by several academic institutions for possible successes and failures.

A report by Dr Tim Pascoe, criminologist and researcher, found that of all participants in Khulisa’s programmes, 98% progressed positively.

Some of the participants cited “anger management and conflict resolutions” as some of the benefits they had received from the programmes said Shezi.

This year and in 2015 the NGO plans to host programmes that focus on domestic violence, parents and children and looking at “the streets we walk with new eyes”, according to Rowles.

Organised, “victimless” crime

Yesterday I got to have a sit down interview with the chairman of the Chinese Police Forum, Rob Crawford. We met as his house just a street away from Derrick Avenue in Cyrildene.

Rob works on a volunteer basis for the CPF and has been doing so for 12 years now. He doesn’t get paid for his CPF work, during the day he makes his bacon by teaching Karate. Which made the t-shirt he was wearing seem much less prejudicial than I imagined it was.

image
Karate kid vibes. Photo: Pheladi Sethusa

The Juice

Within in the first few minutes of speaking to Rob I realised that he was going to give me information I could have only ever dreamed of getting – and boy did he. If ever there was a scoop of life, this was it.

Rob told my colleagues and I about the kind of organised criminal activity that plagues Cyrildene. About the Chinese mafia (called the Triad), an assortment of crimes that make car hijackers look like novices to the field.

I have some but also no idea how I am going to make everything he told me fit into my story but where there’s a will, there’s a way and the will in this case is gargantuan (I never get to use that word, thanks Elle Driver/California Mountain Snake).

The arch

After the very enlightening interview with Rob, we headed to the official opening of one of the Cyrildene archways. The very pretty one that I thought was done and dusted. I wanted to find out why construction on the other arch had all but stopped and I found out due to a helpful source.

The blazing sun was not a fun time so it was a in and out mission but Shandu wrote about it on her blog, give it a look.

The things I found out yesterday made me super keen to get cracking on my second draft, have so much more to go on now. Excitement.

The slippery slopes of patriarchy

Patriarchy slapped me right in the face this morning.

I was listening to my new favourite radio station, Power FM. One of the news bulletins covered a story about a serial rapist who committed suicide while in prison. This man had raped 34 girls. The breakfast show anchor, Tim Modise said that it was “unfortunate” that the man decided to kill himself. What?!

What was unfortunate was that it took 33 ‘other’ rapes to catch this man. What was unfortunate was that the he saw it fit to strip 34 girls of their innocence and dignity. What was unfortunate was that 34 girls will probably never have ‘normal’ relationships with men. That’s unfortunate.

The man’s suicide is not.

They then went on to talk about how he may have had psychological problems and how ‘irresponsible’ it was to put a man like him in a solitary cell. Irresponsible.

What struck me was the words these men used to effectively shield one of their own. No one said good riddance or that maybe it was a long time coming. No one spoke of how maybe now the 34 girls could start to heal. No one breathed a word about them.

This brings me to my second on air encounter with slippery words. I decided to tune in to 702 yesterday, for the first time in 3 weeks – just to give them a chance you know. When I changed the station I had done so just in time for John Robbie’s Comment, a segment in which he gets to air his views and opinions.

He was outraged by a comment made by the secretary general of COSAS. In his comment, Tshiamo Tsotetsi called for the castration of rapists. To this Robbie said “did you ever hear such a deeply stupid and dangerous comment?” To answer his question, no. It is not a ‘stupid’ comment, it’s a proactive one. SA has a rife rape culture which cannot and has not been cured by judicial channels. Why not take away the instrument used to rape? Tsotetsi’s comment borders on brilliance.

Robbie went on to say that what Tsotetsi was suggesting promoted vigilantism and would break the law in a violent manner. As opposed to rape which doesn’t right?

If you rape, you should know that you are opening up a world of hurt for yourself. You should be afraid to do it knowing how dire the consequences may be. I back COSAS on this one.

Men should not trivialise how violent and how prevalent rape has become in our society. I am not saying that these men did but the language they chose to use suggested it – well to me in any case.

Court Week [1/5]

Photo: http://www.cultofmac.com

Today we went off to the Johannesburg Magistrates Court to get acquainted with courts and to see our justice system at work.

We began the day by looking at the roll for the day to see which cases/trials  we would want to watch and cover for the day. We were all tasked with finding one interesting case and reporting on it by our 6pm deadline.

It was a bit tricky finding the right court to attend but by midday we had found a few interesting cases and trials to cover. Today we went off in little groups so we could all struggle together, hopefully we all learnt enough today to brave the corridors by ourselves come Wednesday.

We had to be back at the department at 4pm so we could all submit by 6pm. It took me a while to decide which case I would write about because they were all interesting in their own way. We had two drunken driving ones, tax evasion and theft.

What I wanted to write about was a refugee from Mozambique who was charged with theft (he stole a Woolies trolley) and not having any “lawful” identification documents. I didn’t knew that foreigners are obliged to carry some sort of identification on their person at all times or face arrest when they don’t. It seems very 1952 to me. His case made me even more sad when he was sentenced to more jail time because he couldn’t possibly afford the R3000 fine required of him for both “crimes”.

Anyway I ended up not having enough solid information to write that story, so I wrote this one instead:

DIVERSION – A LITTLE KNOWN PLEA

*Names changed to protect identities

Pheladi Sethusa

Guilty or not guilty are not the only choices when a plea is being made in court. People accused of small misdemeanours can plead diversion, which is a plea of no contest against the charges being made.

Thomas* (30) from Berea pleaded diversion to charges of drunken driving earlier today in the Johannesburg Magistrates Court. Diversion is normally only granted to people who commit low value crimes, like shoplifting or possession of a small amount of drugs said his lawyer, James*.

James said that Thomas deserved a diversion because, “he is a taxi driver, a Zulu and a South African.”

The magistrate was not impressed with this argument, saying that his nationality should not divert from the crime committed. To this James replied that it is indeed a mitigating factor in getting his bail dropped.

James claimed that his client could not afford the bail amount which was set at R1000. “Are you taking this on as a pro bono case, Mr James?”, “No I am not,” replied James. The magistrate went on to ask how Thomas could then afford legal counsel but not meet bail.

James asked for Thomas to be allowed to enter the diversion programme. Diversion can only be granted when a person does not deny the charges being made against them, explained James.

The magistrate released Thomas on a warning and told him he can go ahead and enroll for the diversion programme as requested by his lawyer. He would have to come back on May 27 to find out how many hours he would have to serve in the programme.

The diversion programme is run in conjunction with the South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA). The programme aims to rehabilitate people who are enrolled.

Once the hours stipulated by the court have been completed, Sibiya must come back to court with evidence thereof. Then his record will be cleared and he won’t have a criminal record to his name.

That is all for today, I am bushed and I have an episode of Isibaya to watch.

Another hit-and-run in campus parking lot

On Friday night, after a long day on campus Sechaba*, 3rd year Construction Management, walked to his car only to find it dented and surrounded by shattered glass.

A picture of Sechaba's car after the incident. Photo: Provided
A picture of Sechaba’s car after the incident. Photo: Provided

Sechaba’s car was parked next to the bus stop on Yale road, between 9pm and 12am. He had come to campus to pick up friends.On seeing the damage, Sechaba immediately contacted Campus Control to report the matter.

The officers on duty made him fill out an incident form and advised him to come back on Monday to view video footage, if any was available. The officers told Sechaba that the culprit would be easier to apprehend if he was captured by video footage.

 

By Monday, following discussions with his mother, Sechaba decided not to take the matter further. “I decided just to go ahead and fix it myself, luckily I have a few mechanics in my network and the cost of repair is minimal,” said Sechaba.

Sechaba felt that Campus Control did all they could to help him. However, his concerns lay elsewhere, “as students of Wits, we pay so much money to attend here but our needs are treated as second class,” lamented Sechaba.

Wits Vuvuzela spoke to a number of Witsies about whether they felt their cars were safe on campus. Candice Griev, 3rd year BA Law, said nothing major had ever happened to her car except for a minor scrape.

Griev said she had seen vandalised cars at the parking lot for third and fourth years next to the Origins Centre. She saw one incident where someone had written on a parked vehicle with glue “How dare you park here?”

“The thing is there are security guards around here. I don’t understand why this was never addressed and why the person was never caught,” said Griev.
Mitchell Leering, MA Chemical Engineering, said he did not feel that cars were safe on campus late at night. “My car has been hit five times in the last three years,” he said.

Leering said his car had only ever incurred light damage. He said he had friends who had been victims of hit-and-runs with enough damage to be sent in for panel beating over a long period of time.
Leering told Wits Vuvuzela that they had not reported the matter to Campus Control.
“It’s not really worth it, because in our building we get alarms going off for hours without Campus Control coming. What’s the chance that Campus Control will come around to talk about your car?”
Robert Kemp, head of security for Campus Control, said that some parking lots have CCTV camera’s monitoring them. Along with this he said that there are regular patrols in the parking lots during the day.

He stressed the importance of students reporting their issues, so that they could get the help they needed.

Kemp encouraged those who had accidentally damaged cars to always leave a note with their name, number and student number on it. The repercussions for not doing so could be bad if the culprit later caught.

*Name changed to protect identity.