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Drug lords, crooked police and sex workers are having a field day in Umbilo – right under the noses of senior police officers and management, including Transport and Community Safety and Security MEC Willies Mchunu, alleges a local civic organisation.
Umbilo’s residents not only count police spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker among their neighbours, but also Mchunu, under whose control the police department falls.
However, a community surveillance street map which the Tribune has seen, shows at least 30 hotspots in the suburb where drug activity is said to be rife.
The map is the result of a two-year investigation involving community activists, drug addicts, security companies and police reservists and comes as members of the Umbilo Action Group (UAG), supported by local Community Policing Forum, prepare for a march scheduled for Saturday.
The protest will include handing over a petition detailing a litany of complaints against the management of Umbilo SAPS.
The UAG has also written to acting national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi asking for the station management to be “dissolved” and administered by the national SAPS office.
In the petition, the station’s management is accused of:
- Sowing division within the community in what would appear to be a cynical attempt to keep the Umbilo Community Policing Forum weak and ineffectual.
- Providing less than acceptable standards of policing, facilities and service delivery in accordance with the SA Police Service Act and SAPS Standing Orders.
- Failing to institute due process as recommended by the Independent Complaints Directorate in accordance with complaints brought against officers’ treatment of sexual offence victims.
- Failing to address the proliferation of the drug and sex offences within the Umbilo precinct.
- Creating a culture of unaccountability to the community the station is required to serve.
- Failing to provide transparent response mechanisms to complaints brought by the community and independent oversight organisations.
- Endorsing gender prejudice through senior officers’ failure to respect or uphold the rights of victims of sexual offences.
- Failing to investigate allegations of serious criminal and/or corrupt activities by senior officers.
- Fostering a culture of fear throughout the community by threatening arbitrary arrest of those who level valid complaints against the station.
Since the UAG’s call for action, residents have responded with allegations against Umbilo police.
A 63-year-old resident told the Tribune she had been threatened with murder by a policeman. Her only crime, she said, was venturing into a section of the police station that is not meant for the public, in order to ask about a blood donor meeting at the station.
“The officer said, ‘I’m going to kill you’. I was very upset, and I told him I would report the incident. It was completely unprovoked. I’m a blood donor and I was just trying to do my bit for the community.”
The pensioner, who asked not to be named, said she had reported the matter to the police station, but “nothing got done”.
Another resident claimed that police had taken three hours to respond to a complaint of car theft.
There are also claims that the station’s overall crime statistics were inaccurate, with people turned away when they wanted to report certain crimes.
Another resident said, “I, as a community worker, am disillusioned and frequently disgusted by the futility of dealing with Umbilo SAPS, commend this brave attempt at obtaining justice, law, order and relief on behalf of the citizens of Glenwood, Umbilo, and committed and professional SAPS officers.
“Our action - or inaction - now, will determine the future safety and security status of our present and future young and old, schools, tertiary institutions, churches, businesses and property values in our once respectable and peaceful suburb.”
Despite promising an interview with Umbilo Station commander Gerald Mkhize last week, provincial police management reneged through Naicker this week, and said that Mkhize could not be interviewed “due to the attention that this matter has received”.
Vanessa Burger, of UAG, said it was ironic that the community was under siege from crime and many officers failing to perform their duties, despite high-ranking officials Naicker and Mchunu being local residents.
While Naicker would not comment on the matter, saying it had now been “personalised”, Mchunu’s spokesman Kwanele Ncalane said, “Residents have a right to send complaints to the MEC who, as a citizen and responsible person, will then take that forward.
“Our view is that crime can be defeated if the community rises and alerts police and government. They mustn’t view this in a negative way. Now that we’ve identified these places, the next thing is to have a programme of action to deal with the matters and raid these places.”
Burger said quick action was needed to address the community’s concerns. “The fact that the entire community is uniting behind this call for SAPS National’s intervention demonstrates how widespread and severe the problems are.”
She added that if police were not addressing complaints, there was a tendency for the public to take the law into their own hands.
“(This) when combined with Umbilo SAPS’ inefficiency, lack of resources and poor morale, could result in anarchy with residents at war with criminals and corrupt officers. I also don’t want to believe most officers are corrupt, so I remain hopeful.” - Tribune