“Well, I’ll be damned!” lashed out Constable Mahlathi. “If those bloody maangroez think they’ll get the better of me. Hayi, never, they can sommer all go to hell, maan.”

The afternoon had drawn to a close. The white moon appeared in the distance above the mountains of Edo-Mill. Constable Mahlathi was done with his day shift at the police station and was heading back home. He staggered as he walked in a zigzag along the gravel road, drunk as a skunk.

“They’ll do nothing to me, I’m Constable Mahlathi,” he slurred drunkenly. “If they come near me, I’ll shoot them with my gun, right here,” as he pointed to his black 9mm handgun attached to his hip. He kicked large gravel stones with his blue police boots as he staggered and waved his hands in the air.

Constable Mahlathi had a slender body, a boyish-looking face, and a small potbelly. He was 34 years of age and battling with cruellest demon – booze.

As a policeman, he was fully aware of the Grizzly Bears and was drunkenly brave, and ready for a fight.

It was pitch black as Constable Mahlathi passed a line of trees near Khusela High School. There were no street lights near the school.

The gravel road past the school was the same road that Constable Mahlathi always took when he headed home. As Constable Mahlathi passed the trees, he could hear a loud rattling of leaves.

He looked up; it was the force of the wind in the branches.

He laughed out loud. “Nature, you bastard – you think I’m crazy, heh? Well, let me tell you something, you are just wind and I am a human. You think I will be afraid, but I will not put up with your nonsense … never … never!”

Up in the large tree branches sat two members of the Grizzly Bear Gang. It was not the wind but them who rattled the leaves.

Each of the two men held a panga shaped like a heavy, iron baseball bat. The men were dressed in black, with black balaclavas, heavy jackets, pants and leather half-boots. Their attention was fixed on Constable Mahlathi as he staggered drunkenly past.

Constable Mahlathi swayed forward and backwards, giggling.

“I am not drunk,” he said to himself. “You see, I am just good as new.” He stood on one leg, demonstrating to himself that he could stand and not fall. “Anyone who says I’m drunk, I’ll beat the living daylights out of him.”

Those were to be the last words that Constable Mahlathi would ever speak, as the two men jumped down from the big branch of the tree to kill him. He was beaten with one blow to the head with a panga and fell down helpless.

There was a loud bang. It was a bullet fired into Constable Mahlathi’s chest after he was dead. One of the men had forcefully taken the young constable’s 9mm handgun and shot him, for fun. The men immediately fled when they saw that he was dead. One less cop, that’s all they thought.

In Zone 5, an elderly man in his seventies, had been beaten up and left hanging on his fence to die.

His neighbour’s saw the gang fleeing. But when they got to the fence they were too late. Other residents were quick to gather around him.

“Oh my Lord! That is Utatu Zolile,” cried one of the elderly women.

“Call the police, somebody! Call the police.”

“It must have been those Grizzly Bears,” said one of the residents angrily.

“He’s right … It’s those animals who did it,” cried out the crowd.

“It’s always the same rubbish with the police; they always show up late,” said one of the residents angrily as the police finally arrived, their lights flashing.

Parking their vans near the anxious crowd, police officers jumped out from their vehicles and rushed towards the scene.

“What happened here?” asked Lieutenant Alfred Jobela.

“I was just passing by, going to a friend’s house, when I saw the body of this old man hung here on the fence,” replied the resident who first witnessed the body. He was still in shock.

“Move away from the body please,” said the lieutenant. The police secured the crime scene with tape that read: “WARNING! CRIME SCENE. NO ENTRY.”

The crowd watched as the body of the old man was zipped up in a black plastic bag and carried by the police towards the van. Some of the officers were searching for more clues in the dirt and blood in the sand near the fence.

“I think we are done here, officer,” said the lieutenant to his colleague. The lieutenant stepped forward and addressed the crowd.

“I would be grateful if you were to all head back home now before it gets too late. I’m sure that some of you are already aware of the gangsterism that is happening in our township. Trust me, people, and leave it to us. We, as the police, are able to handle this situation.”

Ja, I bet you are,” jeered one of the residents. The crowd stirred in agreement.

“Tell me, Lieutenant,” asked another man impatiently, “if you are unable to handle this, what do you expect us to do? Sit around and do nothing?”

“Any evidence that is linked to this case must be reported to us,” replied the lieutenant. “We do not need any one of you to do anything stupid, taking justice into your own hands.”

The whining sound of the sirens was heard once again as the police left.

Before the crowd of Edo-Mill residents left the scene an argument broke out between residents who wanted to leave it to the police and those who wanted to take the law into their own hands.

“There’s no justice in this!” cried one of the residents angrily. “We must find those bastards and teach them a lesson.”

There was a sense of fear among the residents. As they departed from the scene, heading back home, some wondered if they were going to be able to sleep at all. The residents of Zone 5 had seen one dead body and no one knew when the gang would strike next.

As the day wore on, the atmosphere in the neighbourhood slipped back to normal. The local taverns were jam-packed as usual with people. The familiar sounds of the loud jukeboxes could be heard throughout the evening.

Although it was dark outside, there were children running around and playing games on the streets.

How could they be left unprotected and where were their parents when they were supposed to be keeping their children away from the streets? They were out drinking.

* * *

Question: Do you think the police can handle the situation? Why do the residents think so little of the police?