Dear police minister: Stop the blood-letting in the Western Cape, especially the Cape Flats

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo administers the oath to Police Minister Senzo Mchunu at the swearing-in ceremony of ministers from his Government of National Unity Cabinet. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/Independent Newspapers

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo administers the oath to Police Minister Senzo Mchunu at the swearing-in ceremony of ministers from his Government of National Unity Cabinet. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/Independent Newspapers

Published Jul 6, 2024


Cape Town - Anti-crime activists and community leaders have implored newly appointed Police Minister Senzo Mchunu to hit the ground running and stop the blood-letting in the Western Cape, especially on the Cape Flats.

They urged the minister to come up with strategies to fight the high murder rate, rape, violence against women, children and the LGBTQIA+ community, gangsterism and the proliferation of illegal guns.

Soon after he was announced as the new police minister on June 28, seven women were killed in five days.

Two mothers, Harlen Meyer, from Stellenbosch, and Aeesha Williams, from Manenberg, were hit by stray bullets minutes apart. Between June 17 and 30, about 180 people were murdered and there were more than 150 attempted murders across the province.

These numbers include the murder of two teenagers, both aged 17, in Gugulethu and George and three teens wounded in Manenberg and Ravensmead.

Five gay men were kidnapped, extorted and robbed allegedly by three men who lured them to dates via Grindr. They were arrested in Woodstock after the Hawks noticed peculiar activities on the bank account of a 50-year-old man.

Organisations say Mchunu, who took over from former minister Bheki Cele, has his work cut out for him.

Anti-crime activist Yusuf Abramjee said: “The violence on the Cape Flats especially is nothing new. It continues and is getting worse. It’s a full-scale war zone. Police are struggling to cope. Politicians run from pillar to post. There are promises that violence will end, but it never does.

“Despite efforts by the law enforcement agencies from national and local level, the gunshots are not stopping, the blood-letting continues. I’ve said before that if the police, and the Anti-Gang Unit can’t cope, drastic times need drastic action.”

Abramjee suggested that the army should be brought into the Cape Flats.

“The government needs to consider bringing in the SANDF to aid the police in making the Cape Flats and other places safer. Young children are being shot dead in the crossfire almost every week.

“I hope the government will move with speed and that the new MEC for police oversight and community safety, Anroux Marais, will engage communities and make the areas safe because they are terrorised and people are living in fear. Enough is enough!”

Cape Flats Forum’s Lynn Phillips said they believe Mchunu will be able to assist communities in their plight.

“We are requesting the minister to meet civil society structures, not just the community police forums (CPF), specifically on the Cape Flats, as we are under siege.

“The first thing we would like the minister to focus on is crime intelligence. We think they are an indictment on our democracy as they are supposed to know and analyse the current genocide on the Cape Flats.

“His focus should be to eradicate corruption in the police service. He must make use of sophisticated equipment to track and trace stolen guns, drugs and gang operations in our communities.

“The minister must seriously (launch) a probe into this continuous genocide on the Flats. We also need specialised units at police station level and only accountable to one commander that has been thoroughly screened and vetted with a lifestyle audit to minimise this corruption.”

Sea Point City Improvement District chairperson Jacques Weber said human resources and faulty equipment should be addressed.

“The minister needs to address the shortages of SAPS uniformed members as well as investigating officers across the Western Cape. Like all stations, Sea Point has a shortage of both, with detectives holding a high number of case dockets, making investigating them impossible.

“Sea Point is an area which attracts tens of thousands of local and international visitors and thus must be policed adequately. The minister also needs to focus on using technology within the service such as upgrades of the ageing 10111 call centres, radio communications systems and IT systems for capturing dockets and such.”

Crime fighter Zona Morton said the level of crimes perpetrated against civilians was spiralling out of control.

“Rape, murder, drug abuse and corruption. Firearms went missing at Mitchells Plain SAPS and five junior members were suspended and internally charged. They were all dismissed. The eight senior members were quietly transferred to different stations in the province and are still to appear for a hearing. If the minister wants South African citizens to trust the police, please clean up your house and get rid of corrupt officers, rapists and murderers. We are all equal under the law.”

Social Justice Coalition political educator Bonga Zamisa said they see the appointment of Mchunu as a chance for the country to renew its commitment and act to make public safety better and ensure justice for all.

“We urge Minister Mchunu to concentrate on visible, efficient policing in informal settlements within Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain, Nyanga, Delft and Hanover Park, where crime rates are high. By implementing clear visible policing guidelines, it would not only provide safety in these communities but also restore trust for SAPS among the residents there.

“These should be developed through consultation with community members to ensure their practicability.

“Furthermore, we call on the minister to allocate more experienced police personnel to these high-crime areas. Experienced officers are better equipped to handle complex situations and can provide mentorship to less experienced colleagues.

“This strategy will enhance the overall effectiveness of the police force and contribute to a more secure environment for all residents. We look forward to working closely with Minister Mchunu to achieve these goals and build safer, more resilient communities.”

The Pride Shelter Trust, which champions the rights and well-being of the LGBTQIA+ community, acknowledged that while there had been growing tolerance toward the community in the country, many LGBTQIA+ individuals still experienced exclusion and marginalisation.

“In recent years, South African societies have become more tolerant in respecting LGBTQIA+ individuals. However, amid ongoing efforts, the long-standing tradition of societal exclusion has vocalised ongoing concerns that the LGBTIQIA+ still do not feel as welcome, comfortable or safe even in communities that provide much-needed spaces.

“The LGBTQIA+ community has been and continues to be marginalised, demeaned and subjected to inferior human rights advocacy followed by bullying and ridicule while enduring discrimination and violence,” said director Nicole Alexander.

She said crime stats tended to use the phrase gender-based violence and attach it to all types of violence and/or crime.

“It generalises the specific violence with either females or males and this should change. And this can be expressed in much more detail for society to be made aware of, and start placing measures in place that will tackle social issues.”

Action Society demanded clear and measurable goals and strict performance indicators for the police minister.

Juanita du Preez, spokesperson for Action Society, said: “Even more than a united front in government, we need a united fight against crime.

“The minister has two wars. Besides violent crime, he has to face the fight against the Bheki Cele legacy of corruption and mismanagement inside the SAPS. A major purge of corrupt and inept officials should be the starting point. After the purge, it’s crucial to rebuild the SAPS from the ground up, ensuring that a decentralised approach to policing is implemented.

“By decentralising power to provinces, we can create a system that is more responsive to local needs, challenges and priorities and less vulnerable to political influence. The Department of Justice cannot increase their conviction rates with poor investigative capacity from SAPS.”

The police minister’s spokesperson, Kamogelo Mogotsi, said Mchunu was busy gaining a comprehensive understanding of the portfolio and would be responding to concerns as soon as possible.

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