Minister hears allegations against police after 11 murdered on weekend

Residents claim police are under resourced, corrupt, in cahoots with criminals, and that the station commander hasn’t been seen since 2018.

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Photo of a panel of people
“After the meeting, I won’t tell you what will happen. You will see what happens yourselves,” police minister Bheki Cele (standing) told the community gathered in Philippi East. Photo: Vincent Lali

The community of Philippi East are demanding that Minister of Police Bheki Cele deploy more police in their area.

This comes after the bodies of six women, ages 18 to 26, were found shot dead on Friday evening, and the bodies of five men, ages 18 to 39, were found shot dead on Saturday in Philippi East.

“The motive for these shooting incidents remains the subject of an intensive police investigation,” said Western Cape SAPS spokesperson Captain Frederick van Wyk.

Community members confronted Cele and other officials at the Lower Crossroads community hall in Philippi East, where he had come to hear their grievances on Monday.

“Please hire a permanent station commander and deploy police who wear berets to patrol on foot around the clock because gangs are finishing us off here,” community leader Ncedo Marikeni told Cele.

He said that he and other residents are scared to report crime because police inform criminals about them. “When you report crime to the police, the information filters through to gangs and you become unsafe afterwards,” said Marikeni.

Community leader Siphokazi Henisi said she and many residents wanted the minister to deploy the current Philippi East police elsewhere as they harass innocent residents. “We want you to hire new cops because the ones working at the police station beat us up at night,” she said.

Community leader Xolisa Pukani said, “We want to work as reservists and assist the police in fighting crime. Tell us how many reservists you want.”

Pukani said, “Police say they have only two vans and the national department of police doesn’t care about them.”

This is not the first time ten or more people have been gunned down on a single weekend in the area and residents have said they have lost faith in the police. In 2017, after 11 people were shot dead on a single weekend, then Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula came to visit the Marikana community and promised more police resources for Philippi East station.

Ward councillor Nelson Chitha said he last saw station commander Colonel Bongani Mthakathi in December 2018. “Some say he works in Tokai; others say he is in Eastern Cape. We don’t know his whereabouts.”

“In the absence of a permanent station commander, no one guides the police and runs things at the station. Consequently, criminals do as they please,” said Chitha.

Community leader Lubabalo Maliti said Mthakathi worked hard after Mbalula posted him to the station. “Colonel Mthakathi was super-active as he patrolled along with cops dressed in his civvies and driving a private car.”

“The acting station commander is invisible now,” he said.

Maliti said, “Mthakathi used to follow up cases and even chase thugs himself. When he returns to work, we want all the bad cops who are in cahoots with criminals to be removed from the station.”

Minister of Police Bheki Cele told the residents that he would draft a Technical Response Team to combat crime in Philippi East.

“We will have to borrow cops from other areas. We need to deploy lots of cops,” he said.

Drawing applause from the residents, Cele said, “I will bring in soldiers if necessary.” He said he would meet the security cluster and justice cluster to devise ways to reduce crime in Philippi East. He also said he had seen the memorandum of demands which the residents handed over to the police station on Sunday. Cele promised that after five days he would return to check which demands have been met and which still need to be dealt with.

He asked the residents to work with the police so that the murderers could be arrested. “When we knock on your doors, you must hand the gang members who are in your houses over to the police,” said Cele.

Mayco Member for Safety and Security JP Smith commented: “Every time there is a flare-up of violence, we point to the fact that SAPS in the Western Cape is woefully under resourced compared to the rest of the country … Our appeals to national government to address the issue cannot continue to go unheard.”

“We ask, yet again, that they take extraordinary steps to fill the estimated 4,500 policing posts that the Western Cape has lost in the last four years,” he said.

Captain Van Wyk said Public Order police, K9 and Flying Squad members had activated a 72-hour action plan involving “lock down and operations” in Philippi East. “From an investigation perspective, detectives with crime intelligence are hard at work following leads that could result in the arrest of the perpetrators of these incidents,” he said.

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TOPICS:  Corruption Crime Policing

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