File photo: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town – Delft is a known hot spot for crime, with a high murder rate and where around 300 robberies are committed a day. Yet, despite pleading with the authorities, there is not a single CCTV camera in the area. 

Stories such as a Delft father who was shot dead in front of his children aren't unusual. Months after the trauma they are still receiving death threats when a relative refused to join a gang.

"The government, everybody, knows that Delft is a hot spot, but there is not one CCTV camera at the entrance, exit or anywhere in the community," Pastor Charles George, chairperson of the Delft Community Policing Forum, told the Cape Times.

"When I spoke to the metro police about it, they said there is no infrastructure, no fibre that can relay straight to their control room in Goodwood, which is a total lie. 

"We have fibre in our building at the moment and fibre to 24 hot spots in the community which they can plug into. But there is no political will, no appetite for them to come to the party because it's not their idea and that's why we are having all this push-back.

"From the City to the metro police, we spoke about this four months ago and to date nothing is happening."

JP Smith, the mayoral committee member for safety and security, didn't respond to an email the Cape Times sent for comment on the issue. Smith has promised cameras in Maneberg, too, said community activist Lesley Wyngaard.

"Police Minister Bheki Cele said at the Crime Summit that when he went to Philippi after the killing spree one weekend, a CCTV camera hadn't been working for eight years," said Wyngaard.

George believes long-lasting solutions to combating crime lies within the community and that the army, which hasn't been deployed in Delft, wouldn't have much effect. 

This has been affirmed by a community activist from Bonteheuwel, Henriette Abrahams, who told the Cape Argus the soldiers were “not stabilising our communities because we continue to live in a war zone and our children continue to lose their lives”.

“It’s useless for them to have a two- to three-hour operations and leave the area again. The criminals are aware of this and exploit their operational inefficiencies and continue with their gang activities.”

On a shoe-string budget, the Delft CPF has piloted a project using a tuk-tuk, with a flat-screen TV built into it, and a drone to show there is a more sustainable crime-fighting solution at hand. While initially excited at the potential drones had in addressing crime, the idea has been "parked".

"The Department of Community Safety, I invited them. They came and were very excited, but they have just parked it. I had the SAPS with me and they were very excited.

"I had the advisers of the police minister with me and they were very excited, but nothing materialised. They don't even answer emails.

"We are not concerned about the army being here or not. We are looking at how the residents can come up with long-lasting solutions and how can we fast-track the situation with technology without government.

"Our approach is to empower the community through technology. We are going to show them how it works and then they are going to demand it.

"If they don't get it, let's have elections again and we will vote them out of power and get people in who have the appetite and the ability to help the community fix these issues.

"They don't have the ability to see how technology can fast-track adressing crime in the community. It's just a mindset where they are wanting to operate old school and we are saying you need to shift gears and start to go where the world is going.

Last week, after a Delft constable was shot dead and two colleagues wounded, George said the community was "bleeding” and demanded that the Delft SAPS management be removed, including the acting station commander, whose personal car was stoned the day after the army was deployed on the Cape Flats.

“We feel that crime in our area has spiralled out of control and we need a new sheriff in town to get a grip on the crime in our community. At the moment, gangsters are ridiculing police and are taking their lives and we cannot have that,” he said at the time.

The extent of the crime problem in Delft, however, has had the CPF do an about-turn on the issue.

"We had a chat with the (police) general and I think just because of everything that is happening in Delft, we just want to put it on hold for the moment because the residentsare shouting out for help and attention.

"We don't want to be getting into squabbles at the expense of the safety of the residents in the community."

Similar to Belhar last week, schoolchildren will soon join in a protest against the violent crime in their community.  

"We are planning a march in Delft as well, similar to the one in Belhar. It will be a combination of schoolchildren, neighbourhood watch groups and residents taking part. We are getting all the permits in place," George said.

Cape Times