Bheki Cele promises action in crime-plagued Westbury
Residents in the gang-plagued suburb of Westbury want police minister Bheki Cele to ensure community members arrested during turbulent anti-crime protests are released from custody.
"Free our people‚" they shouted in unison while waiting to be addressed by Cele on a local sports field on Tuesday. "We are tired of corruption in our area. We have had this march since Friday. People were arrested. We want to know [from Cele] are they going to release them or what‚” asked a community member.
"There are a lot of issues in the area. There are drugs. There are criminals. Our politicians do not stand up for us. There is no task team in the area. The police are not doing anything for the community‚" charged another resident.
"Please release our people. You have the power to do so‚" begged a man.
"Minister we are perceived as ruthless people. We have been marginalised for years. We took an initiative to clean up our community‚ but we were shot and arrested. How is it that those who are meant to be protecting us are using live ammunition on us‚" asked another man.
“Minister‚ you have seen people burning Rea Vaya busses. We are not ruthless - that is why we started a clean-up campaign. But do not test us to the limit‚" he added.
Unrest erupted in the area last week after a 45-year-old woman was shot dead during a shootout between three men. A 10-year-old girl was wounded in the incident.
Residents vowed to shut down the area to mourn her death and called on government to deploy the army to clean up the drug-ridden area.
Scores of people have been injured in the ongoing violence. Police fired rubber bullets at the protesting crowds‚ who have over the last few days littered the streets with burning tyres and debris.
Cele said the SA Police Service’s Tactical Response Team would patrol the area from Tuesday with the Johannesburg Metro Police Department.
"The national police commissioner will investigate the allegations that you have made and we will come back to you to give you feedback‚" he told residents.
"A special unit of anti-corruption is being set up by the national commissioner."
He said that police had arrested two men in connection with the earlier shooting of the woman and child. Two more suspects are still at large.
"We commit ourselves to coming back to work on the matters the community have raised. We will ask other departments to be part of the meeting next week so you can raise the matters‚" said Cele.
Responding to the call for the release of arrested members of the community‚ Cele said: "I know they are applying for bail today [Tuesday].
"They are not in the hands of the police but they are in the hands of justice. The court will look at individual cases [to determine their release]."
He assured the community that the police would not oppose bail.
"We heard you … Our job is that we allow you to sleep better and make sure the criminals are found."