Manenberg residents demand visible policing

Western Cape Police Commissioner, Khombinkosi Jula, Police Minister, Bheki Cele and Shamiela Edwards on a walkabout in Manenberg. Photo by Mzi Velapi

The police minister went on a walkabout in Manenberg, one of the townships in the Western Cape where crime is spiraling. Eighteen people have been killed in a space of four days.

Residents concerned with high levels of crime and gangsterism in Manenberg handed over a memorandum of demands to the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele on Tuesday. Under the umbrella of “Taking back our streets,” they are concerned with the deaths and injuries of “many innocent people due to gangsterism and drugs” and are demanding visible policing in the area. Manenberg is home to the Hard Livings, one of the largest organised criminal groups in Cape Town.

“One of the ways we are taking our streets back is that we occupy the park where the merchants stand and they go away,” said one of the leaders, Shamiela Edwards. The group was just two weeks ago picketing outside Parliament against gang violence. The police minister, Bheki Cele, assured them he would meet with them later that day but could not honour this commitment.

In receiving their memorandum, Cele compensated for his no-show by responding to each demand. To the one for more trained police officers that are bilingual, he said he believes that police officers should be able to speak the dominant language in the precinct they work in.

Another problem they face when reporting crime is to be told that “there are no vans” and as a group they demand that police vehicles should be readily available when needed.

Cele’s response to this was elaborate: “One of the things that I’m going to announce during the department’s budget this week is that the police vehicles are going to be fixed by cluster youth. It is a decision that was taken at the national summit of the youth crime prevention desks. We will make use of young people with mechanical and panel-beating qualifications to fix the police vehicles,” he said.

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According to crime statistics, the Manenberg police station is among the 10 worst precincts when it comes to sexual assault, and murders rose from 55 in 2017 to 61 in 2018.

It is not just Manenberg experiencing an upsurge in gang violence; thirteen people were killed in Philippi and in Hanover Park over the weekend, according to Cele, and five people were killed in Khayelitsha and Delft on Monday. The Western Cape government has called for the deployment of the defence force in the communities.

Cele promised the community of Manenberg that he will soon be joining the group when they occupy the park and that the department will be organising a sports day for youth in the area.

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