Furious Bonteheuwel residents order JP Smith to leave meeting
Cape Town - Angry Bonteheuwel residents chased mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith and ward councillor Angus McKenzie from a community meeting with Police Minister Bheki Cele on Wednesday.
The meeting was arranged after Tuesday’s “Total Shutdown” protest, during which residents from a number of suburbs took to the streets in protest against gangsterism, crime and the police’s inefficiency.
After Smith and McKenzie left the meeting, one of the organisers of the protest, Gatto Wanza, said those who took part in the protest would “not be used for political purposes”.
Wanza said children in the community were forced to join gangs and were turned into criminals.
“Sacrifices are being made daily to attend meetings to get our area in order. Things are happening behind the scenes that nobody else sees or even hears about,” he said.
Protest organisers showed Cele a video of the protest, which showed eight people who were arrested while the police fired stun grenades and rubber bullets.
Resident Nadia Mayman cried when the video was shown.
She said residents were called “low-lives and idiots” by officials during the protest.
“The police are failing our communities,” she said. “When you report crime to the police, you’ll be lucky if they respond in less than an hour.”
Community activist Henriette Abraham called on Cele to spend time in Bonteheuwel and use public transport without bodyguards, “to see how the community lives”.
“Every day we are robbed on our way to work; our children are being manhandled by gangsters on their way to school, because they want them to join gangs,” said Abrahams.
Her community depended on a satellite police station that closed before midnight. “We want the same attention that Knysna got when people there were engulfed by wildfires.”
Abrahams asked Cele to hold a summit for working-class people by the end of October.
Cele agreed to meeting with the people of Bonteheuwel on Tuesday, following an outcry among residents over the arrest of the eight protesters.
He said whenever he engaged with communities in Cape Town he thought of six-year-old Stacey Adams, whose body was found in a shallow grave next to a Wendy house near her home in Eastridge. “I do not control comrades in the government; however I will ask other ministers to be part of these meetings, especially (those in) the justice cluster,” said Cele.
He urged the community to work with him to resolve their difficulties.
“We are not going to impose anything on the communities; we will try to work together,” he said.
McKenzie said the meeting was supposed to have been “a stakeholders’ meeting”. He said he and Smith were invited to attend it by the minister’s office.
Smith said Cele had no solutions for policing failures in Cape Town.
“I am deeply worried that the genuine concerns of crime-ridden communities are hijacked by political interests, specifically in Bonteheuwel,” said Smith.