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Soweto Tavern Shooting | Bheki Cele’s empty promises

Residents of Nomzamo Park in Soweto gathered at the open field opposite the tavern to listen to Minister Bheki Cele after the tavern's deadly shooting that took place at midnight on July 10 2022. Picture: Cebisile Mbonani

Two months after the deadly shooting that left 16 people dead and at least 8 injured at Mdlalose Tavern in Nomzamo Park, Soweto, the community says the promises that Minister Bheki Cele made to them have not been kept.

The residents of Nomzamo Park in Soweto gathered at the open field opposite the tavern on July 11, 2022, a day after the mass shooting to express their grievance with Cele. During the visit, residents complained about a lack of police visibility, hearing gunshots every day, and street lights not working, which increased muggings and crime in the area.

Minister Bheki Cele promised the residents that the police would saturate the area. "From today, we want to see the police taking over the streets, not the criminals," said Cele at the time.

When visited the community this week, residents it was violence as usual.

"Friday we were hearing gunshots that lasted for about 5 hours. Started at 11 pm and continued until 3 am. We go to sleep with gunshots and get awakened by gunshots," said Siyambonga Toto (34).

During the meeting with residents, the minister promised to deploy members of the Tactical Response Team, also known as Amaberete, to parole the area and find criminals. Was there anything else he promised?

"We are going to deploy TRT members to patrol this area. They will be here from tonight. They won't be removed from here until they complete their task. Their presence will be felt," said Cele.

Residents only saw the TRT members on the day after the meeting with Bheki Cele, And for two weeks after that. But they have since disappeared.

"It was safe when the Amaberete were here. No gunshots in the area. No drinking or people were walking around the street after 11 pm. I only saw Amaberete for two weeks. Now that they are not here, everything is back to its previous state," said Sihle Mthobeni, 34.

Mother of two, Ester Lekgathe (48), complain about cable theft in the area since the street lights are not working. "It was easy to see criminal and cable theft activity when the street lights were working. Now the street lights are not working."

Gauteng Commissioner, Max Masha said the police were keeping their promise. He said TRT members were still present in the area, just at certain times.

"They are not there on a 24 hours basis. They check crime patterns in the area and visit the areas during those hours. Maybe that is why the community says they only saw them for two weeks," said Masha.

Meanwhile, five suspects linked to the killings appeared in court on Monday. The case was postponed to next month. While they wait for justice, the community of Nomzamo park is still navigating their lives in fear, gunshots, dark streets, and empty promises from their minister.

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