Police Minister Nathi Mthetwa

POLICE Minister Nathi Mthethwa got a well-deserved earful from residents when he popped into Gugulethu on Tuesday night. Cramming into the civic hall, community members described how their lives were increasingly plagued by criminal gangs. They accused police officers at the local station of failing residents and called on Mthethwa to replace them.

Resident Bridget Ngcozela told Mthethwa that a member of the neighbourhood watch, Rice Sithole, had been attacked by a gang of youths in front of her house while he was on patrol. She had tried to call police: “They never came. I called them and told them the man was dying but no one answered. When I did get through a police officer told me they were busy,” she said.

Residents warned Mthethwa that “if the police continue to drag their feet”, the necklace vigilante killings that have been occurring in Khayelitsha could start in Gugulethu.

Although Mthethwa has fires to put out everywhere right now now, he is surely aware of the collapse of the criminal justice system in Khayelitsha.

Last weekend, a suspected cellphone thief out on bail became the eighth person in the area to be necklaced in the past three months.

The alarm was sounded more than five months ago about serious problems in Khayelitsha when a dossier was submitted to Premier Helen Zille. Documenting a litany of policing failures, activists and residents called on Zille to use her powers to appoint a commission of inquiry into the collapse in relations between the community and police.

Zille’s office reported this week that she is still seeking legal advice.

In the meantime, residents in Gugulethu have now vented their verbal anger, warning that a frustrated community might take the law into their own hands.

Authorities at all tiers of government cannot afford to drag their feet any longer before taking decisive action against ineptitude and even criminal collusion at local police stations.