SAPS Police tries to calm down the situation at Springfield mall near Umgeni road.Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)
SAPS Police tries to calm down the situation at Springfield mall near Umgeni road.Picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape residents warned not to spread rumours or post fake news about looting

By Nomalanga Tshuma Time of article published Jul 15, 2021

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Cape Town - Residents are warned that rumours, fake news and false posts on social media are fodder for those that seek to destabilise the province, and fuel for would-be looters itching to emulate criminals in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell said that the province’s Disaster Management Centre (PDMC) would be working around the clock to provide verified information of social unrest.

“The ongoing proliferation of fake news via old photos or voice notes is leading to distress amongst the public and making our work harder as we try to ensure the situation remains under control in the Western Cape.

“SAPS and the PDMC are aware of multiple messages going around relating to – amongst others - alleged threats to various malls in the City of Cape Town and elsewhere in the province. This includes messages on official letterheads known as early warnings,” Bredell said.

He also urged people to note that these official early warnings are no cause for alarm, but rather are pre-emptive risk mitigation measures.

“Crime intelligence compiles daily reports of possible to look out for and these become early warnings. High risk areas have been identified and contingency measures are already in place to address every situation that may come up.”

Bredell said social media platforms are creating unnecessary fear and panic.

“Please report any concern to your local police station and try to verify with official sources before distributing any information. All information received by SAPS is followed up and verified.”

Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato also made a call to city residents urging people to help authorities stop the spread of fake and unverified news of possible violence.

“I appeal to the public to please help us stop the spread of fake news regarding false reports of public violence. This is making it difficult for law enforcement to adequately respond to safety incidents.

“We all need to work together to ensure our city remains safe and the sharing of outdated videos, pictures and unconfirmed reports has the potential to leave communities vulnerable by unnecessarily diverting resources where it is needed most,” said Plato.

Meanwhile, local community policing forums and accredited neighbourhood watch groups across the city have vowed to continue actively monitoring and patrolling their respective areas, to ensure that the areas wouldn’t fall victim to gross looting sprees and property damage.

Among the communities that have been vocal about their stance against any possible ransacking of their communities are NHW groups from Delft, Du Noon, Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Langa, Bonteheuwel, Milnerton, Durbanville and other areas.

Du Noon councillor Lubabalo Makaleni said: “On Tuesday afternoon there was a group of opportunistic people who wanted to start something at our local Makro and Game, but fortunately police nipped that right in the bud and there haven’t been any attempts again.”

Langa Safety Patrol operations co-ordinator Vuyani Tshamlambo said that after meeting with other stakeholders in the community, the safety watch group had decided to join forces with the police and law enforcement to protect the area from potential chaos.

Gugulethu CPF chairperson Thembinkosi Mjuza said: “Since we initiated structured NHW patrols in our community, there have been no reports of incidents or attempts thereof. We are very proud of the work our teams on the ground are doing, and we are looking forward to a disaster-free community when the chaos officially boils down.”

Khayelitsha CPF secretary Fransina Lukas said: “So far we have things under control in our cluster. Unfortunately, there was an attempt last night at Thembokwezi Square, but due to the diligence of our watch groups the incident was stopped and there haven’t been any more reports. We believe that we will maintain order, however that doesn’t mean we’re letting our guard down either.”

Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz has commended and encouraged the work being done by NHW teams across the province, to ensure that the spirit of looting and destruction does not filter into the province.

“Last night we saw a neighbourhood watch stop an isolated, attempted looting of a mall by a small group. Police were quickly called, and the risk averted. So neighbourhood watches have an incredibly important role to play,” Fritz said.

Some of the rumours included a mid-morning incident at the Cape Town station deck, where gunshots were fired during an argument by members of rival taxi associations. The incident sparked panic, which caused a stampede through the Golden Acre Mall and the neighbouring Grand Central shopping centre.

Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Jacques Moolman said: “At times like these the best advice is to keep calm. Inevitably there will be rumours flying around. It does not help to add to them.

Police Minister Bheki Cele earlier this week warned that the government’s security cluster monitored all social media platforms and tracked those who shared false information as well as those calling for civil disobedience.

People spreading fake news were urged to remove them immediately and inflammatory posts could result in being prosecuted, Cele warned.

* Additional reporting Mwangi Githahu.

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Cape Argus

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