Residents demand answers from police minister

The police minister says that they will deploy the SANDF if there is a need to deal with violent crimes in the township. Archive photo by Mzi Velapi

Residents of Bonteheuwel and surrounding townships demanded answers from Police Minister, Bheki Cele, for promises police ministers had made in previous meetings with the communities,

Conveners of #ShutdownCapeTown in Bonteheuwel and surrounding areas slammed the visit by Police Minister, Bheki Cele, to the area on Tuesday.  Cele was accompanied by top cops in the province to address a stakeholder meeting. According to provincial commissioner, Khombinkosi Jula, the meeting had been called to establish the “reasons for the killings that happened over the weekend.” Three men were shot and killed within a span of four hours.

Before Cele could speak, Karriem Matthews from Bishop Lavis Action Committee (BLAC) and one of the leaders of #Shutdown Cape Town raised the issue of the meeting’s procedure. “I do no think that you have a right to speak to us today unless you are here to answer the three main demands that we made to you. When you were here the last time, we demanded a working class summit to debate and find a way forward on all the issues that we face as this community. We demanded the deployment of the Tactical Response Team unit in Bonteheuwel; we also want a base-camp in Valhalla Park,” said Matthews.

“It can’t be that the minister is only concerned about the killings that took place over the weekend when two children were killed in December and he never came,” he said to roaring applause. Matthews was referring to the drive-by shooting on Christmas eve that claimed the lives of  two children, aged four and six in Valhalla Park.

His sentiments were echoed by Graham Siebritz, a religious leader in the area who raised the issue of a lack of intelligence-led policing. “Where is police intelligence; why are they not arresting the perpetrators of crimes,” said Siebritz.

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Chairperson of Bonteheuwel Ratepayers and Tenants Association, Nadia Mayman, said that they do provide the local police with information but if any arrests result, they seldom lead to convictions. “We provide them with information about drugs and killers but they get arrested today and they are out on the streets the next day,” she said.

According to Mayman, the Anti-Gang Unit which was deployed in October last year in Bishop Lavis and Nyanga precincts in October last year, have not been enough to prevent crime and killings in Bonteheuwel. “The problem is that the Anti-Gang Unit are here for few hours and mostly on weekends and crime happens as soon as they leave the area,” said Mayman.

Marthah Lewis, however, disagreed. “Stop blaming the police, the police are visible in my area. The problem is that there are women who protect their children who are involved in gangs. These parents need to work with us. As women we need to stand up for our children and work with the police,” she said over boos from the crowd.

Michael Hoffmeester from Bishop Lavis Development Forum blamed poor service delivery and the response time of the City of Cape Town for some of the crime. “We do report faulty street lights and the need for the installation of high mast lights in some of the areas but we have to wait for up to 10 days for them to fix the lights,” said Hoffmeester.

In answering these challenges, Minister Cele blamed the community leaders for failing to send a proposal to him about the summit. “The preparatory committee never got back to me to say that they are ready. Even if they say they are ready tomorrow, there will be a summit. The summit, though, cannot be just for this community, it has to be a provincial summit to include all communities,” said Cele.

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According to the police minister, most of the police’s resources are allocated to the Western Cape but are concentrated in certain areas and that there is a need for them to be equally spread.

Cele urged the communities to be patient and to wait a bit before engaging in another #shutdown. Last year residents of Bonteheuwel and Bishop Lavis took to the streets in protest against gang violence and poor policing.

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