Deadly hotspot

The dangerous spot in Lusaka, Nyanga.

The attack on a provincial health department emergency service ambulance, on Borcherds Quarry Road, as it was transporting an eight-year-old patient from an accident scene in Delft to Red Cross Children’s Hospital, has been widely condemned.

But people who live in the area, say the area is a crime hot spot – and that crime is something they live with every day.

The ambulance was stoned on Wednesday morning November 8 before it came to a standstill.

The crew was held at gunpoint and robbed. The patient later died in hospital in what authorities believe was as a result of the delay in getting him to hospital. It is said the crew was held at gunpoint and robbed, and the ambulance left immobile.

While the attack has been widely condemned, Nyanga residents believe it was a major wake-up call for authorities.

Residents of nearby Lusaka said the area where the incident took place was a crime hot spot, with robberies, hijackings, smash-and-grabs and break-ins reported daily.

Of the stoning of the ambulance, resident Abongile Ntlokwana said: “This is an everyday thing. People are mugged there, our houses are burgled cars hijacked and all sort of bad things happen.”

He blamed the government for not protecting its citizens.

“There is nothing we can do as residents to clean that place of crime. Now that a government vehicle was robbed, I hope the government will do something”, he said.

Another resident, Nolutho Mdayi, said she was not shocked by the incident. “Bhuti (brother) where do you live?” she asked Vukani’s reporter.

“This is nothing new here. We have accepted the way we live in this area. Criminals are given too much freedom in this country. To be honest with you, this is a crime riddled-area. I feel for the family of the young one killed in that ambulance but the government should shoulder the blame.”

Chairperson of the Nyanga Cluster Community Police Forum, Sandile Martins, confirmed to Vukani that “that corner is a problem” and condemned the incident and many others that have happened there.

Mr Martins said everybody, including police and various government departments were aware of crime in the area.

He argued that crime happened under the police’s nose as a police van had been deployed to the area a while ago.

“The irony is that all the bad incidents happen while it is there. Most times there are traffic cops there, yet the traffic jams at those traffic lights are unbelievable. You ask yourself why are they standing there. Something drastic needs to be done. That corner is a challenge,” he told Vukani.

Nyanga police spokeswoman Captain Ntomboxolo Sitshitshi said there was a need for law enforcement agencies to play a role in dealing with the scourge on the N2.

She said incidents of smash-and-grabs, stone throwing and placing of concrete slabs on the N2 had been reported, as had hijackings on Borcherds Quarry and Klipfontein roads.

She said residents of Barcelona and Europe had been arrested for crimes committed on the spot prior to last week’s incident.

“Last week another suspect was also arrested for a case of hijacking where a man from Johannesburg was robbed, hijacked and shot and killed in October, in Klipfontein Road near Lusaka. His vehicle was found in the same road but near Boys Town. This suspect was identified as one of the group of suspects who had been committing hijackings,” she said.

She added that a police vehicle was deployed there on daily basis to prevent and monitor these incidents. She said police officials were deployed from early morning until late to monitor the area.

Captain Sitshitshi asked people living along Borcherds Quarry to work with police.

“We urge the community members to refrain from buying stolen goods from these culprits because the valuables that they rob, they sell them to the community members. This would assist in curbing these incidents because there would be no market to sell,” she said.

To report criminal activities people are urged to call the following numbers: 021 380 3300, 021 935 5574, 086001011.