Riding on the crest of the developmental boom in the Central District village, criminal gangs have adopted names that incite fear worldwide to bring similar terror to hapless villagers. Mmegi correspondents, KOKETSO KGOBOGE & BONTE SEEPI uncover a village under siege
PALAPYE: The advent of development in Palapye continues to attract multitudes from all walks of life in search of opportunities, especially in the mushrooming construction sector.
The Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), the massive Morupule Power B plant, multi-million Pula construction work at the bus/taxi rank, together with many other mushrooming industries are slowly turning Palapye into an industrial hub.
The growth of the construction industry has availed a lot of employment opportunities and people from different walks of life have converged at the village to try their luck.
Palapye, previously known as the conservative home of the Bangwato and Batswapong, has now evolved into a cultural melting pot where different tribes, races and creeds coexist.
The positive spin-offs of the development boom have been accompanied by a downside that is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore. Crime, transactional sex, drug and alcohol abuse are on the rise in the village, riding the crest of the upsurge in shebeens and other illegal alcohol outlets. Hidden in the multitudes seeking employment in Palapye are unruly youth from within the village, around it and from far-flung places, who have slowly set up bases from which they launch attacks on unsuspecting people day and night.
Palapye is now a far cry from the sleepy village it used to be a few years ago. It has become a place of hope to many including – ironically – the unruly youth who thrive on stealing from people and committing other crimes.
The youth, aged mostly below 35 years are becoming uncontrollable. Syndicates are emerging in the wards and killings, muggings and other crimes are slowly becoming commonplace in the village.
According to village leaders, several undesirable gangs operate in the village, having been formed mainly in shebeens and other illegal drinking spots. At the top of the list are the Sharia, the Boko Haram, Fitters and the Type-7 gangs, which have gained a reputation for bloodshed.
Village chief, Masego Olebile, and his subordinate, Sentsho Malatsi, who is the Headman of Arbitration, sat down with Mmegi recently to explain the situation.
“There are criminal gangs in Palapye formed by our children and others from neighbouring villages,” Malatsi said, adding that, “The Sharia, Type-7, Fitters and Boko Haram kill people”.
Malatsi explained that while some of the groups had been dormant in recent years, the influx of unruly youth armed with alcohol and drugs had resurrected them.
“Fitters and Type-7 have been sleeping in the last decade, while the Sharia and Boko Haram are the recently formed groups,” he said.
“These groups were formed mostly by
Malatsi decried parents who are uncooperative in the fight to stamp out the gangs. He noted that very few people turn up whenever Kgotla meetings are called to discuss the criminal acts. In addition, according to Malatsi, many parents do not report the crimes their children are committing and instead protect them, even though aware that other people are dying as a result.
“The youth are killing each other, and this is a huge problem because parents are unwilling to cooperate. They stay with these criminals at their homes but are failing to report them,” Malatsi said. According to Palapye police Station Commander, Superintendent Waboraro Ramaja, since June this year, six murder cases have been reported to the police.
“All the murder incidents happened at the shebeens while all the victims and perpetrators in the incidents were youth. In addition, all the perpetrators and murder victims were under the influence of alcohol and drugs. The cases involved four Batswana and two foreigners,” he said.
Addressing clusters at Palapye main kgotla last week, Ramaja decried the high numbers of illegal immigrants living in the community, which he said exacerbated the crime problem.
“There are many illegal immigrants in Palapye living amongst us, and the worst part is that we do not know their names and where they come from. This becomes a problem when they get involved in incidents such as murder,” he said.
Police have since deployed volunteers to be their eyes and ears on the ground, an initiative village chief, Olebile, praises as instrumental to curbing the spread of gangs and their violence.
The crime, however, is not the only thing that irks Olebile about the new, bigger Palapye.
Noise pollution is a daily nuisance and the chief explained that both shebeens and some churches are guilty of the offence.
“This is so especially during the night when people want to rest from a hard day’s work,” he said.
“The noise usually goes on until very late at night, extremely loud and right in the heart of the village. We are taking this matter seriously and engaging by-law officers to deal with it,” he added. According to Olebile, rising crime and other irritants such as noise, could hinder investors interested in setting up in Palapye.
“The cosmopolitan city the community of Palapye is hoping for, could be nothing but a distant dream if we do not engage ourselves in fighting the misdeeds,” said Olebile.