Police in KwaZulu-Natal have secured the arrests of eight suspects linked to two multiple mass murder cases earlier this month.
This development was on Wednesday announced by Police Minister Bheki Cele during a press briefing in Durban.
In January, 14 people were killed within hours in Richmond, in uMgungundlovu and Inanda, in eThekwini.
The Richmond multiple shooting claimed eight lives, including that of a 17-year-old teenager.
The shooting took place at a homestead in Esigcakeni.
Cele said a multi-disciplinary operation was conducted in the Richmond area and resulted in the arrest of seven suspects aged between 21 and 43.
He said the suspects, who were arrested in different locations, were found in possession of several high caliber firearms and ammunition, including possession of drugs.
He said while no arrests had been made in the KwaMakhuta shooting, police investigations were following up on strong leads.
In that shooting, four men aged between 24 and 28 were gunned down in a drive-by shooting while seated under a tree.
In the Inanda shooting, in which six people were killed, one suspect had been arrested and a firearm had been siezed.
He said police were strongly pursuing information that the firearms were linked to the multiple murders.
Multiple murder cases
Meanwhile, the Minister said KZN had recorded 229 incidents of multiple murders between 1 April last year and 23 January 2022.
The shootings, he said, had claimed 531 lives, with a majority in the eThekwini and uMgungundlovu areas.
Cele said while the motives for some of these attacks were still subject to police investigation, drug wars retaliation and revenge attacks remained the leading causes for cases where motives have been established.
This motive was followed by robbery either at a home or business. Arguments were the third highest causative factors for multiple killings.
He said: “The top three areas of multiple murders are at the home of victims or perpetrator or the home of a family member, friend or a neighbour.
“Many of the victims were also gunned down on the streets, open fields or while inside a mode of transport such as a car, taxi or bus.”
The Minister said the figures painted a grim picture and translate to “hundreds of families looking for answers and searching for justice and closure”.
“We owe it to the victims of these multiple shootings and all victims of murders, to go over and above the normal call of duty and find these killers; come hell or high water.
“The same agility and intelligence used to track and trace the suspects in the latest breakthroughs, must be used to bring justice for these victims too,” he said.
Between April 2021 and January 2022, police had seized 1372 firearms through various operations.
He said police remained encouraged that such police breakthroughs and swift arrests would send “a strong message that police are capable and up to the task”.
“The removal of these dangerous weapons off our streets is also most welcomed and I am confident it will go along way in ensuring that the proliferation of firearms is curtailed,” said Cele. “When guns are removed from the wrong hands, lives are spared. We trust the capable team led by the Provincial Commissioner that they will work twice as hard in ensuring that parts of KZN province are not again turned into killingfield.”
He added that police were confident that the courts would, after securing convictions, mete out appropriate sentences, fit for those crimes.