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Western Cape under 'carpet of security' as taxi war flares up

Aron Hyman Reporter
Community safety MEC Albert Fritz, left, Western Cape premier Alan Winde, second from left, and Maj-Gen Thembisile Patekile centre-right.
Community safety MEC Albert Fritz, left, Western Cape premier Alan Winde, second from left, and Maj-Gen Thembisile Patekile centre-right.
Image: Western Cape Government

Neighbourhood watches, security companies, metro police and traffic officials are being mustered under the control of the Western Cape police as the province takes note of the riots plaguing Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

Speaking at a digital press briefing about taxi violence in the province and the looting in some parts of the country, Western Cape police commissioner Maj-Gen Thembisile Patekile, community safety MEC Albert Fritz, premier Alan Winde and transport MEC Daylin Mitchell gave assurances of the province’s security readiness, even as some of their police staff were deployed to KZN to help embattled police precincts there deal with ongoing riots.

Fritz said the province’s various law-enforcement staff members were being brought under the control of the police, bringing personnel on the ground to more than 8,000 members.

Patekile said in every town and city across the province there were meetings with communities, community policing forums, neighbourhood watches and security companies as part of an integrated plan for crime prevention.

A plan - which Fritz described as a “wall to wall carpet of security” - included co-operation with farm watches in sparsely populated rural areas.

On Tuesday, taxi associations Cata and Codeta stopped operations again after a ceasefire between them ended with the murder of three people on Tuesday morning, bringing the total number of people killed in the Western Cape’s taxi war to 76.

The latest murders happened in Bukwayo Road in the Khayelitsha suburb of Harare where two 39-year-old men were shot dead.

In Mew Way in Mfuleni, a 42-year-old man was shot, and according to Western Cape police spokesperson W/O Joseph Swartbooi an unknown male, believed to be a taxi driver, was taken to hospital after he too sustained a gunshot wound.

Police also discovered the body of a 45-year-old taxi driver in the seat of his taxi in Symphony Way near the Blikkiesdorp temporary relocation settlement in Delft.

In Sarah Baartman Road, close to Blikkiesdorp, police members responded to a scene where a taxi driver was shot in both legs.

Also near Blikkiesdorp at another temporary relocation area called TRA 5 the driver of a retail business was dropping off employees when two unknown males approached his vehicle.

When he sped off the men drew out their firearms and opened fire on the vehicle wounding the driver and two female occupants.

Swartbooi said the victims were transported to a nearby hospital for medical treatment.

“The suspects in all the above mentioned cases fled the scenes and are yet to be arrested. Harare police are investigating two murder and two attempted murder cases whilst Delft police are investigating a case of murder and four cases of attempted murder,” said Swartbooi.

“Additional police resources have been deployed in the areas affected by the violence and will remain on high alert, while detectives are pursuing leads to apprehend those responsible. Anyone who can assist with information is kindly requested to contact Crime Stop on 08600 10111,” he said.

Asked whether the police had arrested anyone in connection with the shootings Patekile said that there have been no arrests yet.

Last week government officials met with taxi bosses after 7 people were killed on Wednesday including innocent commuters waiting for taxis during the morning rush hour when taxi hitmen dispensed terror as a tactic in their war for control over commuter routes.

The taxi bosses, said Mitchell, agreed to a ceasefire and made commitments to peace.

He said on Tuesday that he had gazetted regulations to shut down certain routes and taxi ranks and that interested parties had until Friday to comment on the move to prohibit taxis from using routes which caused contention.

He said that a further 44 attempted murders related to taxi violence was being investigated as well as a further 49 taxi related crimes.

Patekile said, however, that firearms have been confiscated and taken for ballistics testing to test whether they are linked to any of the taxi shootings.

Winde reiterated his condemnation against the looting and violence witnessed in other provinces and he called on residents of the Western Cape to stand up against such acts.

Patekile said there were no incidents in the Western Cape relating to looting or unrest but fake reports spread on social media were sapping resources when police officers were forced to respond to every report.

As part of the Western Cape’s safety plan, Winde announced that the Western Cape government would be training and deploying thousands of their own law enforcement officers to bolster the Western Cape’s under resourced and understaffed police service.

Fritz said 580 leap officers were already deployed and working with police, with a further 250 currently in training expected to be deployed in mid-August.

He said that thanks to the lockdown homicide figures in the province had dropped substantially over the past few weeks from average rates of about 50 per week, to 16 last week.

Patekile said all shifts among police officers were collapsed into only two shifts per day, a day shift and a night shift and that office staff were also being called up and into the streets.

He said the police presence in malls and around hotspots has reportedly frightened some business owners who closed their shops at the sight of the officers, likely in anticipation of some sort of urest.

But Patekile said the deployment of officers inside malls and around industrial areas comes from the experiences of unrest in other provinces.

He said hotspot areas were also being given priority.

“We are on all the primary and secondary routes that we think are going to be problematic, we are at warehouses and key points. We are on the streets, doing stop and searches and taking away any dangerous weapons,” he said.

He asked community members to contact the police’s toll free number if they had any information about possible unrest or other crimes.

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