Police Minister Bheki Cele speaks to the residents of Philippi East. File picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA).

CAPE TOWN - Western Cape Community MEC Albert Fritz on Wednesday called on police Minister Bheki Cele to urgently prioritise the spate of gang-related violence and criminality in the province.

“The need for the Western Cape to be prioritised is evidenced by our mortuaries facing increasing pressure in the amount of murdered persons, as by law, all cases of unnatural causes of death require an autopsy. Currently, there is a R287.3 million mortuary being built in Observatory, which is double the size of the Salt River mortuary. However, if murder rates continue at this pace, the new mortuary will not be able to cope with the influx of dead bodies,” said Fritz during the department's budget vote speech. 

According to Fritz, the provincial department of community safety is constitutionally mandated to provide oversight over policing in the Western Cape. In fulfilling this role, it was found that between January and the end of June 2019, there were 1,995 unnatural deaths caused by gunshots and sharp objects. In June 2018 alone, there were 344 such murder admissions. However, in June 2019, this number increased and now sits at 448 admissions.

Fritz further urged Cele to deploy the SA National Defence Force as a peacekeeping force within the communities so that the police are able to pursue arrests and investigations, stabilising and normalising communities most afflicted by gangs and crime and filling of the 4,500 vacant SAPS posts in the province, amongst other issues to be addressed.

“We cannot treat the abysmal state of crime and murder in the province as business-as-usual. We need solutions that will not only stabilise our communities, but also bring lasting peace to them. This further requires a transversal approach to addressing the poor socio-economic conditions which many of our residents continue to live in. 

“It is for this reason that I am working closely with various other departments at each level of government to drive initiatives which provide alternatives to a life of crime. Among these are the deployment of additional School Resource Officers, the Youth and Safety Religious Programme and the expansion of the Chrysalis Programme,” Fritz said.

On Monday, Cele visited Philippi East in Cape Town following the killing of 13 people who were shot and killed in the area at the weekend, promising swift action to address a spate of killings in the province.

African News Agency (ANA)