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'Wag ‘n bietjie, please give me a chance,' Bheki Cele asks Cape Flats residents fed up with crime

Cape Flats residents accused Police Minister Bheki Cele of ignoring their problems with crime.
Cape Flats residents accused Police Minister Bheki Cele of ignoring their problems with crime.

Angry Cape Flats residents confronted Police Minister Bheki Cele on Tuesday in Bonteheuwel, accusing police of not doing enough to curb crime.

Cele, Western Cape police commissioner Lt-Gen Khombinkosi Jula and special adviser Lennit Max went on a walkabout around Bishop Lavis and Bonteheuwel following  recent gang violence in which three people died.

In a question-and-answer session at the Bonteheuwel Multipurpose Centre, residents of Bonteheuwel, Bishop Lavis and Valhalla Park complained that Cele had come after three "gangsters" had lost their lives. During the festive season when "innocent people were dying", they said, he had not been seen.

Bonteheuwel resident Graham Siebritz said, "We did not have a holiday in December. We were busy trying to fix our community. It is clear to us that coloured lives don’t matter. Our children are dying. We have memorial services daily."

Mike Hofmeester, a member of the Bishop Lavis Development Forum, said there were shootings every day in the area. He said parts of Bishop Lavis did not have working streetlights.

"Another big problem is the spaza shops which open very early and close very late. These spazas are where all these unemployed youths gather, where they hold their discussions about gangs and crime. They are where the drive-by shootings happen," he said.

Chairperson of the Bonteheuwel Ratepayers' and Tenants' Association Nadia Mayman said six people had been killed in Valhalla Park last year including two children.

"This morning you visited a known enemy in Bonteheuwel, a gangster," she said to Cele. "Had you communicated with residents, you would have known where to go and where not to go."

Tensions ran high when one of the residents, Tilly Lewis, said the residents should stop blaming the police and start blaming the parents. "Police are visible in my area here in Bonteheuwel. The problem is the parents who protect their children who are involved in gangs. These parents need to work with us."

Other residents shouted her down.

Cele acknowledged residents’ frustrations and said he accepted the need for better communication. But he said he had not visited a gangster, he had visited a crime scene. He urged the residents to come up with a date for a proposed "working class summit" to discuss ways to address crime, violence, poverty and inequality.

"There are so many issues that need to be addressed and some are not for police. For example, while doing the walkabout, I saw a big group of children walking around. I asked them why they are not in school, and they said because the schools are full. These children get recruited by gangsters so we also need the help of the education department.

"All I am going to say right now is wag ‘n bietjie, please give me a chance. Before you shut me down, like you shut down the community, please give me a chance to work with you and see what can be done," said Cele.

Last year there were protests against crime in several Cape Flats communities, with marchers closing off roads and shutting down their suburbs.

- This article was first published by GroundUp

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