With typical bluster, Bheki Cele refused to let the fact of a bloody weekend on the Cape Flats ruin his version of the army deployment.
Police Minister Bheki Cele says that crime is stabilising on the Cape Flats and in greater Cape Town since the deployment of the army a month ago. Cele was addressing the media at the South African National Defence Force basecamp in Mitchell’s Plain on Monday. A statement by the provincial government, however, reported that there were 47 murders this past weekend. The statistics, recorded by the provincial forensics unit according to Premier Allan Winde, reveal that 27 murders were as a result of shootings, 13 were stabbings and seven were by other means.
Despite this number, Cele said that since the operation started on the 12th of July, “1,004 suspects were arrested for various crimes including murder, attempted murder, armed robberies and hijackings.” Cele told journalists that 806 of these were wanted suspects.
“On the gang front, we continue making inroads in dealing with gang violence. Currently 20 members of a notorious gang are before the Western Cape High Court. They are charged in terms of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act,” said Cele. When asked if the 20 arrests were as a result of the operation, Cele admitted that “not all of them are; there have been ongoing operations that have been taking place but the operation is definitely assisting.”
There have been reports of the army and police assaulting members of the public. On these, Cele said he only knows of one case of “a punch up between a member of the SANDF and a civilian and that case is being investigated.” Community members who were standing outside the barbed-wire boundary of the basecamp told Elitsha that there are many instances where members of the SANDF and the police have assaulted suspects and that they do not believe that crime is stabilising.
Clinton Manuel said that the army and cops came to a house he was at in Tafelsig and assaulted them: “The house used to a be a drug house but it has a new owner and the person does not deal in drugs. They came and made us lie on the floor while they were kicking us,” said Manuel and he showed Elitsha bruises on his legs. “They also made us roll on sewage water,” he said.
Fatima de Jongh said that the police do not care for people in poor areas and they are always quick to apprehend those who commit crime against rich people and in affluent areas. “The cops have been so quick to make arrests of the criminals that are alleged to have killed the Ukrainian tourist but they don’t care if they commit crimes against people like me in Tafelsig,” she said. Her child was murdered in 2015 and the perpetrator was sentenced to 10 years.
Maritha Langeveld said that even though the operation is directed at high-flyers, the problem that she sees is that “they get arrested today and they are out the next day.”
During a seminar organised by the Institute for Security Studies recently, the Nyanga Community Police Forum chairperson, Martin Makasi, said that the deployment of the army is making it difficult for drug dealers to move their stuff but that they are continuing with their business.
Cele said that they are in the process of planning beyond the deployment of the army. “The deployment is temporary and we are working with other government departments to deal with socio-economic factors that impede policing efforts in the communities plagued by serious violent crimes,” he said. However, Cele would not say exactly what the plan is for policing after the army has been withdrawn, which is due exactly a month from today.