Various stakeholders and community members clean up Letsoho shopping centre

On Thursday, 22 July 2021 people from some parts of Katlehong and Thokoza joined hands with correctional services officials, Saps, Heineken SA, Themba Molefe Foundation and representatives from the provincial Community Police forum to clean up Letsoho Shopping Centre in Katlehong.

The shopping centre was damaged during the looting spree which took place in two provinces namely KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng. This is one of the oldest shopping complexes in Kathorus, as it has been operating for more than 30 years and it has 58 shops. Paul Koloti who is the chairperson of Mphakathi Investment which owns the centre said, “The cleaning up process of this shopping centre started last week by people who had businesses operating in this shopping centre. We are here today because Pearl organised the correctional services’ regional commissioner to be part of this cleaning procedure. The community and correctional services wardens came on board to assist. The main aim is to show sympathy and commitment. Some of the community started cleaning here last week Wednesday. This centre has been operating for more than 30 years in this community and when the cleaning up notion started last week most community members were eager to assist,” said Paul Koloti.

Captain Buyi Mvelase who is the communications officer at Thokoza police station said the police have been hard at work since July 12 when the looting broke- out.

“We have arrested 46 people for looting and malicious damage to property and we have arrested 30 people in possession of the stolen property. Some of the recovered items will be used in court as an exhibition of what was taken and recovered during the looting. At Letsoho shopping centre an alleged looter was shot by a security guard in self-defence and died at the scene. Then at Mpilisweni another alleged looter was shot by a business owner, who was defending his property,” said Captain Mvelase.

Captain Mvelase also revealed that they won’t be doing door to door campaigns but they will be acting based on the tip-offs from community members as the local SAPS to make arrests.

Correctional services officials also invited their parolees who reside around Katlehong and Thokoza to be part of the cleaning up process. The Boksburg correctional services centre’s communication officer and media Liaison Sello Modise clarified their role in the cleaning-up procedure.

“We saw it fit as the Boksburg correctional service centre to lend a helping hand, we understand what happened. We came with our parolee’s / ex-offenders, officials and our commissioner. We invited more than 50 parolees who reside in Thokoza and Katlehong. We want to showcase to the community that offenders don’t only do bad in the community, but they can do well too by helping to restore the damaged mall. This is our way of giving back to the community by making sure that ex-offenders have something to keep them busy on the outside world.

A Local foundation (Themba Molefe) based in Nhlapo section in Katlehong also offered a helping hand. “Themba Molefe Foundation deals with community development, like supporting child-headed families, orphans, disadvantaged families and the youth that needs to further its educational careers with academic support,” said Themba Molefe founder of Themba Molefe foundation.

Provincial secretary and district chairperson of Community Police Forum Pearl Manqele who is a former local CPF top structure member played a crucial role in bringing these different entities together. There local CPF was not visible during the looting that took place in this township?

Manqele applauded the unity shown by those who took part and volunteered to be part of the initiative. “I cannot talk for the Thokoza CPF, I understand they are under new leadership, unfortunately as their overseer, I was not available, I was deployed to another station so they did not have information or any idea on how to assist, but as of today they are well informed and they are ready to come and assist. They did not want to be seen as people who are reckless and opportunistic. They did not know if they themselves are covered or safe because before you protect anything or someone you need to be safe as an individual first. I can confirm that all local CPFs are on the ground working,” Said Manqele.

We spoke to a community member Carlson Dlamini from Thokoza who was part of the cleaning campaign at Letsoho Shopping centre. He said he wanted the community to see how this looting impasse has affected people’s lives.

“Today I am here to assist and but I strongly denounce the actions of those who benefited in a wrong manner. Now our kids, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers and uncles are not working because of this. The shops they used to work at are vandalised and they have closed down since. Now we have to folk out extra money to buy necessities because we no longer get them at our nearest mall, now we must go too far places and pay large sum taxi fares. Again the protection of the mall was not enough, so need to protect them ourselves,” said Dlamini.

“The reason we are part of this is because we have an outlet store here. We want people to remember where they come from. What we did here will also extend to other areas as well which have suffered similar challenges. We also teach about responsible consumption because we want to grow with our communities,” said Corporate Affairs specialist at Heineken South Africa Bongani Semenya.

According to Semenya the beverage company also works with Community Police forums doing workshops with them and tavern associations.

Heineken South Africa is also supplied with cleaning equipment like refuse bags, sanitisers, face masks. Coffee in the morning and gave everyone who was part of the cleanup a goodie- bag after the work was done.

By Lubabalo Roro

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