MEC hails taxi bosses' brave stance on crime

WESTERN Cape MEC for community safety Dan Plato has praised Khayelitsha taxi bosses for playing a key role in reducing the high levels of crime in the township.

His comments come after three sangomas accused of providing muti to teen gang members in the area in order to help them become "fearless", faced the fury of residents after being corralled by taxi bosses.

Members of the Congress of Democratic Taxi Association in Site C, Khayelitsha, on Monday went in search of the three sangomas who allegedly sold muti to rival Vura and Vato gangs.

The taxi bosses approached the sangomas after receiving a tip-off from residents.

Speaking to Sowetan, Plato said: "The taxi bosses are assisting the police with relevant information and also identifying suspected criminals. This contributes to the reduction of high levels of crime in Khayelitsha.

"We urge them (taxi bosses) to continue doing so within the parameters of the law."

Taxi bosses patrolled the areas along with other civil society organisations.

Plato also said the provincial government was promoting a societal approach to improve the safety of residents in communities, and also to encourage the people to be the "eyes and ears when it comes to improving safety".

A few months ago, Plato convened a Safety Summit in Khayelitsha with the aim of educating residents about the criminal justice system and also addressing the crime problem in the area.

He also invited residents to community meetings and informed them of alternatives to crime or violence.

"I told them that their children can attend the programme being run by the provincial department of cultural affairs and sport.

"Since the meeting with residents, there has been an increase in attendance by young people [in the meetings]."

Plato said his call last month to residents that they must refrain from mob justice and necklacing had a positive influence in the community.

"We had no further reports of vigilantism or necklacing since I met ward councillors and other community leaders following the incidents of vigilantism and necklacing in the area," he said.

Last month there was a spate of kangaroo courts and necklacing of several alleged robbers in the township due to a "breakdown" of the criminal justice system and distrust between the police and the community.

About 1000 residents necklaced three men at Nkanini informal settlement in Khayelitsha, killing them, after a kangaroo court had found them guilty of stealing a generator.

Police spokesman Andre Traut said the police welcome initiatives by taxi bosses to address crime in communities, on condition they were conducted within the ambit of the law.

"We will not tolerate residents taking the law into their own hands; we will act against those who do so," he said, adding that they condemned vigilantism in the strongest possible terms.