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By Doreen Mokgolo

When the residents of Gabon and Qalabotsha informal settlements couldn’t deal with the rampant crime in the area any longer, an organised group of Basotho nationals known as the amaRussia volunteered to patrol the streets to restore safety and peace.

“Amarashia,” in Sotho, means “Russians,” and this gang has been active since as early as the 1940s. For decades, they have operated around gold mines, protecting the illegal mining rackets.

With a history of violence, including drug smuggling and kidnapping, the amaRussia in Daveyton have now turned to extortion.

The group has taken full control of the informal settlements and residents are forced to pay R30 per household each month and between R150 and R1,000 to solve criminal cases.

The cases range from GBV to house robberies and rape.

Residents revealed this to deputy provincial commissioner Major-General Tommy Mthombeni during a community imbizo.

Driving into the area at night, residents are exposed to a stop and search by the men, who are dressed in heavy blankets armed with knobkerries. Some of them carry guns.

Visitors have to disclose where they are going and the amount of time they will spend in the area.

Speaking to Scrolla.Africa, a local resident said they resorted to using the mafia-type group because they have lost hope in the police.

“Since amaRussia took over the streets, criminals fear entering the area due to the number of Basotho men patrolling the streets,” said the resident, who cannot be named for fear of being targeted.

“The group is also able to find suspects and bring them before a kangaroo court where they face their crimes and are lashed according to their crime.”

The resident added that although there is some form of order in the informal settlements now, they have exchanged their previous insecurity for fear of this group.

“They have since turned greedy. If a household is unable to keep up with the monthly payments they get harassed and threatened by the men in blankets. They are acting as if they are our landlords,” she said.

Another concerned resident added that community members are afraid to stand up to the group.

“These men are brutal and dangerous. They are capable of killing anyone who speaks out against them,” he said.

“We wish the police could do more to fight crime so that we no longer have to resort to using criminals for protection.”

Deputy provincial commissioner Major-General Tommy Mthombeni urged the residents to report any criminal cases to the police.

“You also have the option of reporting cases anonymously. Your identity will not be known,” he said.

People in several communities have been forced to find protection from vigilante groups like amaRussia.

In Alexandra, men and women volunteered to patrol the streets day and night. They also resorted to extortion.

Last week, Scrolla.Africa reported on a group of men calling themselves the Taliban, who vowed to hunt down criminals vandalising state informal like street lights.

Pictured above: Residents of Gabon and Qalabotsha informal settlements at a public imbizo.

Image source: Supplied