Members of the Elsies River Community Police Forum (CPF) had to quell tensions amongst residents in the area on Tuesday, amid accusations that police are not doing enough in the searching for Courtney Pieters. The three year old girl disappeared outside her home last Thursday while playing with friends.
This week, tensions simmered as volunteers from Manenberg and Mitchell’s Plain joined the search effort, with complaints surfacing from some volunteers that police are not conducting door-to-door searches. According to the CPF, members visited the police station on Tuesday night and managed to “calm the temperatures” to the extent that searches were resumed.
“The CPU (Cluster Police Unit) was allocated to accompany the community, but there appeared to be a communication problem at the search area and soon the crowd was back at the Police Station. The crowd was now even more unruly and even hurled insults at me. After some further deliberation a list of grievances were taken and only after Captain Fick himself went on searches of homes identified by the community were we able to engage the community members meaningfully,” said CPF deputy chairperson Imraahn Mukaddam.
According to Mukaddam, the Mitchell’s Plain Crisis Forum was instrumental in agitating the crowd but with “legitimate concerns” for how the investigation had progressed thus far. Mukaddam said there appears to be a lack of urgency on the part of SAPS to the search for Courtney. Searches were not conducted in an organized and coordinated manner. One of the main grievances was the lack of availability of sniffer dogs to assist during search operations.
“Searches were not thorough enough as yards, sheds, washing heaps, dirt bins and drains were not searched and not all the houses within the immediate vicinity was searched. Searches were called off whilst members of the community believed it necessary to continue. Not all officers participated in searches and instead sat in their cars instead of assisting on the ground,” he explained.
“The most pressing concern was the fact that Tuesday is dirt collection day and all dirt bins had to be searched prior to collection as bodies have been found inside bins before.”
The CPF also observed some dissatisfaction with the manner in which Courtney’s parents were being treated. This week, Die Son newspaper reported that the girl’s mother Juanita Pieters was interrogated by police, and accused of lying. Juanita cited a police official threatening that she would go to Pollsmoor prison, if she was found to be lying about the circumstances of child’s disappearance.
On Tuesday, the Manenberg Safety Forum’s Shanda Pascoe said they were horrified to hear how Juanita Peters has been “mistreated” by the police.
“Why must the mother be treated as a perpetrator? Her house was searched four times yet the police are reluctant to give a search warrant to search all the houses in the area. We must cordon off Elsies River and every house must be searched thoroughly with a sniffer dog,” she told VOC News.
Mukaddam said the plight of the parents was not being recognized and that not enough feedback was being given to the family. VOC