About 200 people came out on Workers’ Day to unite against crime in Athlone and demand better service from the police.
The march was organised by the Athlone Community Police Forum (CPF), Cosatu and various neighbourhood watches.
They gathered at the Athlone Stadium and marched to Athlone police station, where they presented a memorandum to deputy provincial police commissioner Major General Mpumelelo Manci.
It called for better service from the police, more housing opportunities, quarterly feedback meetings from the police, regular patrols in industrial areas to prevent the robbing of workers, railway station patrols, a provincial children’s commissioner, better enforcement of the Domestic Violence Act, the removal of current provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khombinkosi Jula, and the removal of corrupt police officials.
Athlone CPF chairwoman, Aziza Kannemeyer, said people were fed up with crime – not only in Athlone but all over the Cape Flats.
Ms Kannemeyer said: “It doesn’t seem that there is control of what is happening, and there is a huge lack of resources, so our view is that the whole system needs to be re-looked.
“We need adequate resources at police stations, especially gang stations, but we also need to see a revamp of the judicial system because today the guy goes in and tomorrow he gets out.
“It’s major crimes that are being committed, and the same criminals keep on getting bail, and we don’t understand why,” she said.
The Western Cape was burying too many children, and if crime didn’t stop it would continue to do so, she said.
“There are about 25 gang stations, so if shootings happen simultaneously even in just five areas, how do you deploy 100 officers to all those areas effectively at the same time? The aim of the Anti-Gang Unit is correct but we need to have more than one unit,” she said.
Major-General Manci promised a response to the memorandum within 21 days.
“A plan of action will be communicated to you. We appreciate what has been done today. As SAPS, we have a responsibility to provide safety to all the people of the Western Cape.
“We will take this up with the provincial commissioner and the national commissioner and the minister,” he said.
Cosatu’s provincial secretary, Malvern de Bruyn, said the police were not doing enough to protect the public. He accused the police of providing a poor service and said the excuse of being under-resourced would no longer wash.
“The police need to provide more resources into the hot spots. They know exactly where they are. Together with the City of Cape Town, they need to start doing something. Our people need protection. Those working in the industrial areas are being robbed and mugged, especially on Fridays they are targeted. We need more police visibility,” he said.
The police service needed better management and its annual budget needed to be allocated more effectively.
“The Anti-Gang Unit is playing their part, but what happens to the rape cases and the robberies?”
Secretary of the Athlone CPF, Edward Dou, said gangs ruled communities, children at both primary and high schools were using and selling drugs, and police response times were poor.
“They take so long to come out we have to take the criminals to the station ourselves and wait for the police, and it is telling neighbourhood watches that they don’t want to work with them. The neighbourhood watches prefer to work with law enforcement because they get a better response from them,” he said.
Mr Dou said Athlone police station should prioritise residents in its precinct, especially the elderly.
“Residents have expressed their disappointment in SAPS to the point where they say the station might as well close down and be replaced by Metro police because they find policemen standing around and hiding especially at night, and when you phone they don’t respond. And most of our residents are elderly and they need that response immediately so they rather call their neighbourhood watches,” he said.