A state of emergency should be declared in the capital, said an expert after a fifth homeless person was found dead at a bus terminal in Pretoria yesterday morning.
This comes after the South African Police Service (SAPS) deployed a team of specialists, tasked with unravelling the murders of homeless people in Pretoria.
While the SAPS referred to the murders as “mysterious”, several reports suggest the killings were committed by a serial killer.
The Gauteng Saps expressed its concern, saying investigations were under way to track down the culprits.
Spokesperson Mathapelo Peters confirmed that all the victims were middle-aged, homeless, and were killed during the night.
She said: “Police can confirm that at least five bodies have been found in a period of about two to three weeks, in different parts of Muckleneuk in Pretoria Central.”
However, she did not reveal the cause of death.
“To this end, police are also calling for partnerships with private security and members of the public; and any other volunteers who could assist in the apprehension of the suspect and more importantly, bring this menace to an end,” said Peters.
Institute for Security Studies [ISS] researcher Johan Burger said although there was so little known about this particular case, it was no secret that homeless people were the most vulnerable.
He said “these killers or serial killers could be targeting homeless people because they’re looking for easy targets and they live in open spaces and remain unprotected from harm. The perception is that people will not take the murders seriously and they can get away with it, but they have made a huge mistake because it’s caused a huge public outcry.”
He said the police should properly investigate the matter and the government needed to “come to the party” to ensure more protection was given to the homeless so that these incidents did not occur.
Richard Bolland from New Hope SA, a non-profit organisation based in Cape Town dealing with homeless people, echoed Burger’s sentiments and said the government should call a state of emergency to prioritise the protection of the homeless.
“This situation is very concerning because of the vulnerability of the homeless. These people could be struggling with either mental illnesses or a substance abuse disorder while not having a home. The government should provide more shelter and buildings for them and provide shelter to any who report feeling unsafe for a temporary period until they find out what the matter is.
“They should also open up to the private sector to seek help and see which NGOs will be willing to assist,” said Bolland.