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Tensions boil over in Gugulethu during Minister Bheki Cele’s 'let’s solve crime' visit

Community organisations including community policing forums around Nyanga and Gugulethu met with SAPS top brass to discuss issues of crime, policing concerns and challenges faced by the two policing precincts. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency (ANA)

Community organisations including community policing forums around Nyanga and Gugulethu met with SAPS top brass to discuss issues of crime, policing concerns and challenges faced by the two policing precincts. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jul 6, 2022

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Cape Town - Police Minister Bheki Cele was grilled at a community engagement in Gugulethu over his department’s lacklustre response to crime in communities.

Accompanied by police top brass, Cele held the engagement session to source ideas and solutions on how the police could address increasing crime.

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More than 30 community safety structures, CPF and neighbourhood watch teams (NHW) were invited to engage the police ministry on how it could better support them and address rampant extortion rings, cable theft, gender-based violence and femicide (GBVF) in their areas.

Cele’s main points throughout the engagement focused on the whole of society’s approach to combating crime. He called on communities and government departments to play distinctive roles alongside the SAPS to address crime, commenting on how the lack of cohesion results in creating loopholes for criminals.

“When we talk about solving crime, we can’t unfortunately only look at police. We need to be able to count on communities that are on the ground.

“When communities complain about hijackings, and one looks at the road infrastructure which is damaged, it speaks to the problem as well. A person cannot manoeuvre their car on a damaged road.

“Local communities should be maintained, with proper roads, houses and other infrastructure. We also need the Department of Justice and Correctional Services to work with us in keeping perpetrators away from society,” Cele said.

Local NHW teams countered Cele’s statements on police working together with residents, stating that in their areas police officers undermined neighbourhood watches, while some recognised leaders restrict progress by safeguarding criminals.

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Other residents reiterated the problem of inadequate resources for growing communities, questioning the criteria used to allocate police resources such as vehicles.

As the engagement progressed, civil rights organisation Action Society director Ian Cameron clashed with Cele after slamming the police ministry for failing Gugulethu residents and the Western Cape.

Cameron said he had attended the meeting on behalf of victims of GBVF who mandated his organisation to speak on their behalf. During his speech he berated Cele for misusing police resources, under-resourcing the Province and not crediting work done by NHW.

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Cameron also tackled Cele for speaking against the request by the Western Cape government to take charged of policing, and overlooking the province’s role in fighting against crime.

“Cele is once again abusing the police force for political gain and holding authority over ordinary citizens. SAPS will never succeed in fighting crime if Cele stays in his position. Action Society will, however, continue to be a voice for the voiceless where the police neglect their duty,” he said.

Community Safety and Police Oversight MEC Reagen Allen also lashed out at Cele for not inviting the Western Cape government or City of Cape Town to the meeting.

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Allen said: “Cele has consistently shown his disregard for us by not inviting us to events and engagements when he is in our area.

“In this Province, we have shown that the silo mentality will not work, and we’re fostering working relationships with all relevant safety stakeholders.”

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