Police Minister Bheki Cele appealed to community leaders to “wag ’* bietjie met die shutdown”, when they threatened to take to the streets again, as they felt he had broken his promise to deal with gang violence.
Mr Cele heard concerns from the community at a stakeholder engagement meeting in Bonteheuwel on Tuesday January 22 – this after three people were shot and killed just the Sunday before.
He initially met with Bonteheuwel residents in September last year, after the Shutdown Movement in several communities took to the streets to voice their concerns over the constant fear of living in a gang-infested community.
At that meeting, Mr Cele said he was willing to work with the Shutdown committee to find “permanent solutions – from the bottom up”.
A working class summit was supposed to follow, but this never transpired.
All the activists who spoke at Tuesday’s meeting, said their efforts to establish a working class summit had been blocked because Mr Cele’s office did not respond to their correspondence.
One of the organisers of the Shutdown Movement, Abdul Karriem Matthews, said: “We’ve had engagements with your office, but to date nobody has responded. One of the key demands was for a police building for Bonteheuwel. This was not met. A stakeholder engagement is not about the minister making a speech. We are not interested in speeches. You have broken your promises.
“You are not protecting the citizens because you are not listening to us. We no longer believe your lies. Don’t give us a speech – give us feedback on our demands,” Mr Matthews said.
Nadia Mayman de Grass from the Bonteheuwel Joint Peace Forum agreed, adding that the community feels disrespected by Mr Cele.
“We are done with electioneering tricks. If you are here for the three murders that happened recently, then we feel very disappointed, because we had a deadly festive season, and we are faced with the reality daily.
“At our last meeting in September, you came, addressed us and left. The Anti-Gang Unit does not serve us effectively. When they leave the violence starts again. Unless the minister has answers for us, we are not interested. We need solutions, and not platitudes that do not bear fruit,” Ms Mayman De Grass said.
She added that during his visit to the area on Tuesday, Mr Cele had visited the family of a deceased gangster, instead of showing sympathy to families of innocent victims. “This bereaved us. It shows how you do not consult with the community. You disrespect us time and time again,” she said.
Activist Henriette Abrahams, said she too, was tired of politicians’ promises.
“Let us as a working class decide what we want. We are taking our streets back, but you are not delivering. You cannot come here and give condolences – it is not enough. You must keep us safe and you are failing us. You are playing games with our lives. We want a plan of action,” Ms Abrahams demanded.
In response, Mr Cele said he apologised to those who felt he had disrespected the community. “I have no business disrespecting people who employ me as a public representative. As for the workers’ summit, they never came back to me to say they are ready to meet. The Bonteheuwel police station is in the pipeline, but things will happen at metro level – not dealing with a community here and a community there,” he said.
He added that the Western Cape province received the most resources in South Africa.
“We pitched SAPS members from different provinces to put them here. Operation Thunder is the biggest anti-gang unit and it is here. It is not an opportune time to not listen to one another. There is no single government department who can resolve all the problems.
“We need to put the politics aside and work on the lives of the people – all spheres of government.”
He acknowledged that communication between his office and the community is lacking and appealed to the leaders to keep their focus on finding solutions. “I want to make an appeal. Hold on to your anger, but let’s have the summit. Stay angry but don’t deviate from the cause – that is to find solutions. There are still a lot to be done.
“This is a war we must win, but we cannot win it, if we fight among ourselves,” Mr Cele said.