Community crime activists on the Cape Flats feel positive about the Deputy Police minister Bongani Mkongi’s engagement with residents, but want to see the community’s input being put to action. Those were some of the sentiments from CPF members who attended the anti-crime imbizo held in Hanover Park on Friday, which drew well over 1000 residents from different areas. The imbizo, hosted with the South African Police Service (SAPS) comes after numerous pleas by residents for the department to address the wave of gang violence, which has claimed the lives of countless innocent people.
The imbizo focused mainly on the Mitchells Plain and Nyanga cluster but it expanded to include other parts of the southern suburbs. The meeting comes as the department implements a national anti-gang strategy, said to have a “sustainable” approach to tackling the scourge of gangsterism.
Rafique Foflanker, the PRO for the Mitchells Plain CPF cluster, said he was encouraged by the minister’s outlook on the gang crisis.
“The minister came out with some very strong messages aimed at the SAPS [South African Police Services], the criminal justice system, the councillors and at the community at large in terms of their role in how they can also help reduce or end this violence across our communities,” he told VOCs Burning Issue.
Kader Jacobs, chairperson of Manenberg CPF, an area which has seen increased gang brutality in recent weeks, said the meeting left him feeling optimistic, but the effectiveness of the plan would be the ultimate test.
“The police minister has a better grasp of the gang violence issue than previous ministers. It was vital for him to engage residents, as they need to understand what our people are going through,” he said.
But the chairperson of the Hanover Park CPF, Ebrahim Abrahams was somewhat cynical, saying these imbizos often amounted to “talk-shops”.
“There is nothing in writing to say the partnership between SAPS and the community is tangible,” he said.
Abrahams said anti-crime imbizos have been held in the past, but no concrete action was taken. One of his main concerns was the removal of the Hanover Park satellite police station, as Phillipi station is simply too far for residents. He said neighbourhood watches were also severely under-resourced.
“If we can consolidate the partnership [with SAPS] then we can say yes we on the right track. We are collectively involved in fighting crime but you cannot expect us as the community to fight crime as volunteers on this side not being resourced. How can we fight?” said Abrahams.
But Foflanker believes close collaboration with the police is essential to make inroads in the fight against gang violence.
“In order for us to win and to gain ground, we need to come together, we need to overlook the small issues amongst and between ourselves,” added Foflanker.
The escalating crime rates have taken a toll on SAPS as well. Foflanker explained that a small police force has to monitor a huge population but also reiterated that police can partner local neighbourhood watches for assistance.
“If you do have a shortage of man power at the SAPS they can rely on the neighbourhood watch to give some limited support. There needs to be a very strong connection between the community police forums and the neighbourhood watches of those communities,” said Foflanker
Gang afflicted residents have made countless efforts to stop crime in their area. A frustrated Abrahams explained some of the resident’s difficulties, but felt that not enough were raised at the anti-crime imbizo.
“The request from our community to the justice department is that no bail should be given to someone that murders, rapes and someone that has an illegal firearm. So those are the cries of the residents to the justice system that did not come up,” said Abrahams.
When asked if the army could be utilised to freeze crime in areas of gang violence, both Abrahams and Folanker agreed but needs to make their presence felt on a more constant basis in these areas and not temporarily.
Details for the new gang strategy was not exposed to the public but the deputy police minister has said it will be founded on four pillars: human development, social partnerships, spacial design and the criminal justice process.
Many residents are optimistic to see what the department can come up with as a plan to stop crime in the coming months. Abrahams certainly gave his formula for a crime free society.
“Whenever there is unity, there is positivity,” he said. VOC