Toti residents take stand on local SAPS

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Durban - Crime-weary residents of eManzimtoti have passed a vote of no confidence in their local SAPS force, and are now demanding “the service and protection” they said they paid for and deserved.

“As a community, we are taking a stand,” they have said in a list of grievances sent to the minister of police, the national and provincial police commissioners, and the eManzimtoti police station.

They say they want to live in a society where “we can feel safe in our homes and neighbourhood, which is certainly not the case at present”.

The vote of no confidence was passed at a recent public joint sector meeting of the eManzimtoti Community Policing Forum, with members later holding meetings to compile their list of grievances.

Co-opted committee member and media spokeswoman, Louise Marais, went to eManzimtoti police station on Monday to hand-deliver a copy to the commander, Colonel Den Mkhize, but when she learnt that he was on leave, she left his copy with his secretary, then delivered another copy at another building to the acting commander.

The dossier points out that the incidents they were complaining about had taken place over the past 14 months and the “chances are there are many, many more similar incidents”.

The residents’ gripes include allegations that police officers had been involved in criminal activities.

“It is the responsibility of the police to ensure that residents live in a safe and protected environment. However, if some police officers act as if they are above the law, and clearly so as seemingly nothing happens to them when they break the law, then what hope do we as a community have that criminals will be made accountable for their crimes?” they said.

Referring to police officers allegedly involved in criminal activities, they recalled that an SAPS member had broken a gate lock at the Wavecrest Holiday Resort in Illovo Beach, where he has a flat, last month.

(The policeman said in a later media interview that he had cut the lock as he was a fisherman and had wanted access to the beach.)

Another complaint involved a policeman who allegedly “owns and operates a taxi used in a hijacking incident in Illovo Township on 30 December”.

The grievances raised at the recent joint sector meeting involved, among other concerns, allegations of abuse/misuse of power and/or government property; refusal to open cases and/or issue case numbers; slow or no response to call-outs; failure to adhere to basic police procedure and/or police officers in breach of their employment contract and failure to charge identified criminals.

The residents recalled that one incident at Southgate Industrial Park happened last May when policemen in five police vehicles allegedly arrived at a business “to remove a private vehicle of a policeman… in order to avoid payment”.

And when Athlone Park grandmother, Edda Botha, 75, was bludgeoned to death with a pickaxe in November, the radio controller at the emergency hotline number, 10111, allegedly refused to respond and terminated the call. Three more calls followed before the local Community Crime Prevention Organisation (CCPO) phoned eManzimtoti SAPS, which later said they did not have a record of the call. The CCPO eventually flagged down a passing patrol vehicle 41 minutes after the first call.

Police also allegedly took more than three and a half hours to respond to an armed robbery at Wista Park earlier this month. A case number had still not been issued two days later, they claim.

They say details of a drug peddling business in eManzimtoti were e-mailed to the police mid-December, and details of a liquor distributor allegedly breaching the Liquor Act in Athlone Park were e-mailed in November, but said “nothing had happened”.

Various other incidents were listed by residents including lack of response to crime call, arrogance and failure to charge suspects.

Marais said last night that she had received no feedback to the various e-mails and hand-delivered documents that she had sent out.

“And that is absolutely the problem: There is no feedback,” she stressed.

Responding, police media spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker said the provincial commissioner had not received any correspondence from any organisation relating to a “vote of no-confidence” at the eManzimtoti police station.

“The provincial commissioner has indicated that once she has received the correspondence and has had the opportunity to study the contents she will meet with the cluster commander, Community Policing Forum and other community leaders to address the concerns and find a solution,” he said.

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