Human Rights Commissioner Chris Nissen experienced first-hand the reality of gang violence when he was caught in a shoot-out on his way to a police anti-crime and anti-gang imbizo in Hanover Park on Friday September 8.
Mr Nissen revealed this when he spoke at the event, praising Philippi police’s head of visible policing, Lieutenant-Colonel Desmond Liang, for quickly catching a suspect in the shootings.
He later said: “Having nine people a day killed in the Western Cape is not ordinary, and therefore we need extraordinary solutions. Crime knows no political party, religion or colour. This should not just be an imbizo, but it must be the first in many steps to help us stop the killings. The one thing we need on the Cape Flats is to build a relationship of trust and confidence between the community and the police. We can continue to blame one another, but when paramedics are attacked, or the police are attacked, as the community we need to say: ‘Mamma and Pappa, speak to your child’. No longer should we hide the guilt of our children, because if we do, another person will die. As for SAPS, please listen to the community. I know it’s tough on you, but take care of the community, like the policeman of old. Let’s find a sustainable solution.”
More than 2 000 people from all over the Cape Flats packed the hall at Mount View High School in Hanover Park, to share with Deputy police minister Bongani Mkongi the frustration and pain they endure living in a gang-infested area.
Heideveld community leader Vanessa Adriaanse was among those who addressed Mr Mkongi from the stage at this highly emotive meeting. When she was reminded that she had limited time, she said she would speak about everything in her heart and on her mind, because she “does not know when he will be back”.
“When you leave, we go back to our communities with our challenges,” she told Mr Mkongi, adding: “We are thousands of community members who are committed to fight against crime, but we need your commitment. Let me speak to you as a mother. You are calling us to be whistleblowers, but we have no confidence in the police. You are helping gangsters killing us, because police officers sell the guns to them. Jou hart klop net soos ons s’* man.”
Ms Adriaanse’s comment on police selling guns to gangsters, stems from Mr Mkongi’s admission that guns which disappeared from Bellville South and Mitchell’s Plain police stations, were stolen by police officers and sold to gangsters. Fifteen 9mm state firearms disappeared from the Mitchells Plain police station on August 25, and three days later, 18 guns vanished from the Bellville South police station.
Last year, a Rondebosch businessman, Irshaad Laher was arrested for allegedly buying guns from a police officer, and selling it to gangsters. In May, his case was postponed until September 22 for further investigation at the Western Cape High Court. He is out on R100 000 bail.
Former police officer, Chris Lodewyk, who controlled the Gauteng firearms register, was sentenced to 18 years jail after he pleaded guilty to more than 20 charges of racketeering, corruption and money laundering in the Bellville regional court in June last year. He and a colleague sold an estimated R9 million worth of illegal weapons and ammunition to Cape Flats ganglords.
Speaking at the imbizo, Sheikh Toha Rodriques from the Hanover Park mosque, told the audience that it is sad that churches and mosques are no longer places of sanctity.
“There are no less than four murders a week in Hanover Park. The area has been marked as an extreme red zone in the Western Cape. We cannot build on our future if we do not look at our past and where we erred. The community lost all hope in the men in blue. Please step in and bring stability to our area. The blood of the innocent people are begging for peace,” Sheikh Rodriques said.
In response to the people’s concerns, provincial police commissioner, Lieutenant-General Khombinkosi Elvis Jula, said killings is still a big problem in the Western Cape.
“We have identified particular police stations – so-called murder stations. These include Manenberg, Elsies River, Ravensmead, Steenberg, Cape Town, Philippi, Harare, Philippi East, and Nyanga (among others). There is so much work still to do in Manenberg, but we have re-focussed and prioritised all areas where gang-related crimes increased. Those of you who spoke up today, let’s form a working group and look at the issues you are raising, then we can show the deputy minister (of police) the progress we made when he follows up,” he said.
At his turn, Mr Mkongi said corrupt police officers should be dealt with harshly. He said if police officers are found guilty of a crime, they should serve twice the minimum amount for the crime, because they took an oath to serve and protect.
“Those police officers who attend parties of gang lords, I want to warn you – we will give you an opportunity to be a general of the 26s or 28s gangs, by taking you straight to Pollsmoor in a ‘waentjie’.”
He also called on the community not to aid crime by buying stolen goods, telling the police that their child is not home when they come to arrest him or her, or attacking the police. The community must remain united against the scourge, he said.
“We cannot be divided. Gangsters take advantage of our division and politics. It also creates conflict and confusion among our people. Gangsters are carrying heavy weaponry and are terrorising our people and are not afraid to shoot the police. I told (police) members if a gangster or criminal shows an AK47 in your face – shoot him down, because if you blink, they will take you down. By pointing a firearm at a police officer, you are undermining the authority of the state,”Mr Mkongi said.