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‘We are in danger if we report gangsters’, say residents

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Western Cape Minister of Community Safety, Dan Plato, accompanied by the South African Police Service (SAPS), Law Enforcement and various community policing forum’s collectively took to the streets of Heideveld and Manenberg on Tuesday for a safety outreach program. The campaign aims to educate communities about the Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA). During a walk-about in the area, Plato called on residents to play an active role in eliminating criminal elements plaguing their neighbourhoods.

“We have already seen a number of successes from this campaign in areas like Uitsig. During our time there, police managed to arrest seven individuals who were on the most wanted list. In addition, we were able to confiscate four illegal firearms all through tip-offs from community members, so we have no doubt that this campaign will also bring us good results in Heideveld and Manenberg,” Plato told VOC News.

A block of flats in Manenberg
A block of flats in Manenberg

During the walk-about Plato informed residents about the dangers of protecting.

“The POCA makes provision for arrests as a result of offences ranging from racketeering, gangsterism and unlawful activity – which can include drug, alcohol and firearm offences. The Act makes it possible to not only target those guilty of the offence but those who are protecting offenders.”

Through the safety outreach campaign, Plato says he hopes to establish and build relationships with residents who can play an influential role in bringing criminals to book.

Residents came out in their numbers to hear what Plato had to say but told VOC News that they remain sceptical that this campaign, much like many other government projects in the area.

“Last week we called the police because there was fighting and it started getting out of control. They only came out two hours later. We are told to call police whenever we need their assistance and protection but the reality is they either don’t pick up their phones at the station or just don’t bother coming out,” Shamiela Williams explained.

Authorities conduct the walkabout in the flats
Authorities conduct the walkabout in the flats

Other mothers stood listening attentively to Plato’s address but said they see very little police presence in the area. One resident in particular, who asked to remain anonymous, told VOC News that on more than one occasion she had seen police search innocent young men walking from the local shop to buy a bread but allowed those involved in criminal activity to just walk by without searching them.

“We appreciate the Minister coming out here to try and help us but we can’t just give information to police about the local drug dealers when police can’t even protect us now. We put ourselves in danger. If police can be more active in the area and actually show us they are here for us then we will definitely report the criminals to them,” anonymous added.

Neighbourhood watch members listen to Dan Plato as he addresses residents
Neighbourhood watch members listen to Dan Plato as he addresses residents

Meanwhile, Plato urged residents to come forward with information that could help police combat illegal activities in the area.

“We want to give people of Heideveld and Manenberg to work with SAPS and not hide criminal activity. It is our duty to educate our people about the law and the role they can play in helping us make their community a safer one,” Plato continued. VOC (Ra’eesah Isaacs)


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