South Africa

WINDE TALKS SAFETY PLAN

Winde takes his crime plan to Delft but hears of a breakdown between police and community safety structures

Backyarders from Eindhoven in Delft were interdicted from occupying city-owned land after a rumour that houses would be built there. (Photo: Leila Dougan)

During a meeting with community safety structures and premier Alan Winde in the community of Delft – which recorded the second-highest murder rates in the recent crime stats – fractures in the relationship between these structures and the police were laid bare. This as Winde wanted to show the community what his safety plan was.

Can a community that faces high levels of crime, a fracture in the relationship in communication between its volunteer safety structures, and an increasing population, be able to implement the new Safety Plan set out by Western Cape premier Alan Winde and his provincial cabinet?

Delft, on the Cape Flats, sits about 30 km away from the Cape Town CBD and, according to crime statistics, recorded the second most murders in the 2018/2019 financial year. On Wednesday, premier Alan Winde visited the area for a community meeting and to introduce his Safety Plan, which was announced to much fanfare following the release of the 2018/2019 crime statistics.

At a meeting at the Delft Civic Centre, Winde and Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz laid out the role of the province in providing safety for communities across the province, much like Delft, which has been affected by high levels of crime, including murder and rape.

While this idea of more boots on the ground (Winde’s plan envisions some 3,000 new safety officers and 150 new investigators) was welcomed by various members of the community who filled the Delft Civic Centre, it was clear: as much as there was possibly good news awaiting the community, the area was plagued by a high rate of crime.

 

If society is not safe, we cannot go to school,” stated the premier, who questioned what kind of society allows children to do their homework under the table because “under the table is the safest”.

What was clear during the meeting was the breakdown between the South African Police Services and the community.

One member of the public, who identified himself as Simphiwe, asked “why the police don’t help people?” after he saw a wheelchair user trying to cross the road, but a taxi had knocked the person over. When several community members heard the commotion, they tried to stop the police who at that point had driven past but did not stop to help the wheelchair user get to the hospital.

Another woman, who identified herself as member of a neighbourhood watch in the community, repeated the same sentiment: police don’t help the community, there was limited police visibility, and there was a need for street lights as she had helped a woman who had been raped in her street before she could be stabbed by the perpetrators.

She even questioned where the army presence was, saying “we haven’t seen any of these”.

Delft is one of 10 crime-affected areas on the Cape Flats where the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was deployed following instruction from President Cyril Ramaphosa. The deployment was originally from July to September but was extended by the Presidency until March 2020.

Dineo Masiu said “these soldiers go with the same police that help the gangsters” and added that the police in the area work with the gangsters and criminals and that the community does not trust the police.

The breakdown of trust in the police was visible when the programme director for the afternoon, Ward 20 councillor Courtney van Wyk, made apologies for the acting Delft station commander, Brigadier Phindiwe Ntungele, who could not be at the meeting. This caused several shouts of disapproval by the community members present, many of whom were wearing neighbourhood watch signage on their bright yellow bibs.

Later, when Daily Maverick asked the chair of the Delft Community Policing Forum, Pastor George Charles, why the community members had reacted in that way, he said the following:

What is important to understand is that we need to understand the different structures – if it’s a station commander, a colonel, if it’s a general, they are also under the supervision and they have to follow orders. I personally asked the station commander if she would attend the meeting; there was no instruction given to her from the provincial police commissioner to say that they’ve been invited to this meeting and, based on them not being invited, he could not give her the instruction to attend. So the reason why she is not able to attend here today is because your provincial government and your SAPS is not working together.”

George, who had been working in the community for the past 24 years, said “they (SAPS and the provincial government) must stop using communities like us as their pawns – that’s where everything goes skew, where everything falls off the table… that’s what we’re sitting with”. DM

Daily Maverick has previously written on policing within Delft. Read that piece, titled Delft: Poor policing and fragmented planning fuel high crime rate here.

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