By Tauhierah Salie
The Community Police Forums in the Mitchells Plain Cluster have given National Police Commisioner Bheki Cele 48-hours to stabilize the Western Cape Police force, or face a shutdown of its provincial offices. CPF leaders from areas including, Lansdowne, Steenberg, Athlone, Phillipi and Strandfontein held an emergency press briefing at Athlone SAPS on Wednesday evening. The representatives said their communities are living in fear of gangsters who remain untouched by the justice system.
It follows an increase in gang-related murders and crime on the Cape Flats, where the instigators of crime are becoming younger.
The police’s lack of successful convictions has been thrown under the spotlight with communities angered by how “easily” criminals get away with their wrongdoings. The CPFs unanimously refused to host more “talk-shops” and has called for the implementation of a sustainable plan.
They are calling on the South African Defence Force to be deployed to assist police, who are severely under-resourced and have been unable to tackle rampant crime and increasing gang violence.
A spokesperson for Hands Off CPFs says the volunteers who risk their lives on a daily basis stand accused of “being in cahoots with corrupt officials”, adding that the rights of such forums should be revamped.
The member, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the forums should not be subservient to police but that police should be mandated to communicate with safety organisations in an effective manner.
The forums have said that if the police force is not put under administration, they will mobilize communities and shut down the provincial building.
Athlone community policing forum, Aziza Kannemeyer said it is undisputed that crime at the “is completely out of control”.
“We are sitting with 7 out of 8 stations that are gang stations. We are confronted on the daily basis with killings, shootings, rape, murders. Our greatest concern is there is absolutely no strategy on the cape flats. Part of this is due to the lack of resources on the station level,” said Kannemeyer.
The lack of police resources, such as experienced staff and vehicles, is insufficient and therefore not effective to deal with crime and violent outbreaks.
“We need hardened, experienced SAPS members to deal with the issues that the communities are facing on a day-to-day basis,” said Kannemeyer.
She further said that SAPS in the province does not correctly organise and strategize to combat the crime and disorder that exists. The problem is further exacerbated by the division within SAPS itself in the province. That division is seen as a reason for the ongoing violence and disorder.
“We are calling on the minister and even the president to execute their mandate and replace those who cannot manage. And properly staff the stations, the AGU, properly staff the IU, because it is not happening. In short, put the Western Cape under administration. Put our safety first as a community, because our lives do matter,” said Kannemeyer.
She further said that police stations are trying very hard with the limited resources that they have.
The Department of Justice, Department of Community Safety and SAPS are accused of not working together and failing the community. There needs to be plans implemented to unite all entities for a common course.
The CPF is calling for the deployment of the SANDF in “red zones” or areas under serious violence or disasters. She said that the SANDF is needed to assist fireman and police forces who are constantly at risk.
“Even at a level of SAPS safety… our SAPS members are not safe. If they are at risk, surely, they are trying to protect us. But they are coming under fire. So who is protecting them?” said Kannemeyer.
There are growing calls for the SANDF to protest and assist SAPS in their mission to intervene and resolve violence, however, the Minister of Police has remained firm that the suitable for this kind of intervention.
Kannemeyer explains that community members will protest and mobilise themselves to get their voices heard.
“It is school holidays and our children are being held captive because they cannot play outside. We are tired of politics. We need service and we need it now. As a community we are bleeding, pleading and we are crying out. We are asking that the communities unite for a safer community… and support our course for the Western Cape to become a safer area,’’ Kannemeyer added.