The Gauteng provincial community police board has dismissed the growing narrative that the cold-blooded murder of a young white couple on the N12 Putfontein bridge off-ramp in Benoni was racially motivated as implausible and dangerous.
The general trend on social media networks was that the killings were inspired by hate speeches and threats directed at white people. One of the two workers who were with the dead pair, but ran for their lives when the assailants struck, are said to have mentioned that the attackers were shouting umlungu (white person) during the attack.
The couple, from Petit, Benoni, 24-year-old Jessica Kuhn and 19-year-old Johanco Fleischman, were travelling on the N12 from Delmas in Mpumalanga when they ran out of fuel and got off the highway onto the bridge at about 11am on Sunday.
They were waiting for help when they were allegedly accosted by three men who opened fire on the vehicle before trying to set it alight. Dr Mikail Patel, the executive member of the Gauteng province community police board, said these utterances triggered the conclusion that the crime was racially motivated.
He said there were four deaths, including the couple, in and around the area and that one of the victims was an African male found with gunshot wounds to the head and upper body at the entrance of the nearby squatter camp on Saturday. He said the other body, that of a white male, was found on a bridge on Sunday night.
“I don’t know why people want to paint a big picture of a racially motivated crime. It is implausible because one of the four people killed in that area in a 48-hour period was black. These were heinous crimes committed by opportunistic criminals,” he said.
According to Patel, the area was crawling with highly trained and heavily armed gangs operating in the area because of the illegal gold mining. He said the area has been plagued by violent crime for a long time because of the illegal mining activity. He said this has been raised with the authorities, but there was no plan to deal with the problem.
“You have heavily armed gangs who protect the gold. They won’t think twice about killing. I am talking about well-trained people wielding powerful weapons. I am talking 500-calibre weapons, not semi-automatic guns, but automatic weapons. They protect those dealing in illegal gold,” he said.
Patel said the area from Snake Road to the Putfontein road bridge was teeming with illegal mining activity, saying the number of bodies found on that belt was “ridiculous”.
Provincial police spokesperson, Captain Kay Makhubele, said no one has been arrested in connection with the murder. He said they were not aware of other murders, despite Crystal Park police spokesperson Constable Alex Mokete being quoted in local media as having confirmed the other two murders over the weekend.
A special task team comprising South African Police Service and Ekurhuleni Metro Police has been deployed to patrol the Putfontein bridge area where dried blood on the tarmac is a grizzly reminder of the tragic events on the road.