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In Gqeberha, even churchgoers, children and the dead aren’t safe

By Anita Dangazele

Churches and schools in Gqeberha are no longer safe from criminals, and are increasingly being viewed as easy targets for the city’s armed robbers.

As well as children and worshippers, the dead are also not spared, with grave sites increasingly being vandalised and looted.

A robbery incident at the weekend sent shock waves through the city as congregants were allegedly robbed while attending an evening service at the Assemblies of God church in Kwazakhele township.

The robbery is a first of its kind in the area, as churches and schools have always been seen as immune to any kind of criminality.

A congregant, who asked not to be named due to safety concerns, who attended the service said they were caught off guard and shocked by the unthinkable incident.

“A robbery inside the church is the last thing one would expect, when they [suspects] walked in we thought nothing of it until we saw they were carrying guns. It is shocking how people no longer respect the house of the Lord,” he told Scrolla.Africa.

A week ago staff at Vukani Bantu Primary school in Motherwell were robbed at knife point inside school premises. The suspects walked away with cell phones and car keys.

Eastern Cape Department of Education spokesperson, Malibongwe Mtima, said robberies in schools were evidence of a declining society.

“The department can only do so much in terms of ensuring safety in schools. Communities also have a responsibility to protect schools from such incidents. When things like this happen then that means there’s apathy and moral decay in our communities,” he said.

Residents in the metro say they have to think twice whenever they visit the graves of their loved ones because they are vulnerable to being robbed in cemeteries in the area.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality spokesperson, Mamela Ndamase, admitted that safety was a growing concern and though further security upgrades were in the pipeline, the available budget did not allow for it at this stage.

“The anti-vandalism committee is working on a master plan to beef up security across our facilities. The plan includes CCTV cameras and alarm systems.

“At the moment, we cannot put additional security guards in these facilities due to budgetary constraints,” she concluded.

Traditional initiates at a Motherwell school of initiation were the latest victims of a robbery where unknown suspects ambushed the initiation camp and demanded cell phones and food.

Eastern Cape police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu said communities must work with police to fight the ever-growing tide of crime in South Africa.

“Fighting crime is not only the police responsibility — civil society, community leaders and the police must work together to curtail the free reign of criminals within their neighbourhoods,” said Colonel Naidu.

Pictured above: Cemeteries in Gqeberha are being targeted by robbers and vandals

Image source: Supplied