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CIVIL UNREST

Diepsloot protesters march to Union Buildings and demand meeting with Ramaphosa

Diepsloot protesters march to Union Buildings and demand meeting with Ramaphosa
Residents of Diepsloot, Johannesburg protest,20 June 2023, they are angry over high crime rates, lack of police visibility and undocumented foreign nationals. Photo:Supplied

Following the failure of crime prevention interventions in Diepsloot, the beleaguered community, which has been staging violent protests, has again called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene.

At the height of violent protests against crime in April 2022, Diepsloot residents rejected the government’s interventions to end the violence and demanded to see President Cyril Ramaphosa. 

On Wednesday, 21 June, a group comprising community and religious leaders representing the Diepsloot community marched to the Union Buildings in Tshwane to facilitate an audience with the President after the latest round of violent protests against crime in the area.

The protests, which began last weekend, were sparked by a reported increase in violent crimes such as robberies and murders, as well as what residents claim is the high number of undocumented foreigners living in the area.

Last weekend, protesters dismantled and torched some shacks that allegedly harboured criminals in Diepsloot. On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, they shut down some foreign-owned businesses.

At the Union Buildings on Wednesday, Vincent Ndou, chair of the community policing forum (CFP) in Diepsloot, said they had embarked on the protests to draw the attention of the authorities to the soaring crime rate in the area.

“Crime is out of control. The police are not working with the people on the ground. As a result, no matter how strong the police deployment, if they don’t work with the community how will they know the crime hotspots?” Ndou asked.

Residents of Diepsloot, Johannesburg protest,20 June 2023, they are angry over high crime rates, lack of police visibility and undocumented foreign nationals. Photo:Supplied

“People are brutalised every week in Diepsloot and in many circumstances, the victims died,” he said. 

Over the last few years, during Police Minister Bheki Cele’s tenure, tenuous calm has sporadically been restored to the area following anti-crime meetings between the police and community and the deployment of the police Tactical Response Team (TRT).

Read more in Daily Maverick: Diepsloot: Families mourn deaths of loved ones amid rising anger

Community members told Daily Maverick that the increased police deployments do not reach all areas in the community, especially the crime hotspots. They said the deployments were not permanent. 

The community wants someone from the government to account for the failure to resolve the crime scourge, especially after the perceived failure of the TRT. They feel that Ramaphosa should be that accounting authority.

Protest representatives met the director-general in the Office of the Presidency on Wednesday. It was agreed that the community will first meet concerned ministers, such as the ministers of human settlements, home affairs, police and justice, before Ramaphosa’s possible visit.

Residents accused the police of accepting bribes from criminals instead of making arrests. 

“We have no police here in Diepsloot. They use the police cars for their own personal needs and when you report a case they will tell you that there are no cars,” said resident Mduduzi Biyela. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Diepsloot community irked by government reconciliation efforts following spate of killings

In May 2022, the Diepsloot community rejected interventions by the government after violent protests against crime in the area. A number of ministers, including Cele and Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, visited the area to intervene.

The protests were clearly xenophobic and to encourage tolerance, the government hosted an Africa Month event in Diepsloot. 

At the height of the unrest last year, the Diepsloot police station received 16 additional police vehicles to help in the fight against crime. The Gauteng government has also committed to reducing crime and recently recruited 3,000 “crime wardens” to complement the police and improve law enforcement visibility.

On Tuesday, 20 June, Gauteng SAPS Commissioner Elias Mawela said 14 firearms had been recovered during police operations in Diepsloot since April 2023 and 82 arrests had been made in connection with liquor sales at unlicensed outlets.

Mawela further said the police had made strides in reducing the “trio crimes” of carjacking, house robberies and business robberies. 

However, Diepsloot residents say tha violent attacks and robberies used to happen mainly on weekends, but are now a daily occurrence. 

The latest attacks in the area claimed the life of a well-known CPF and community leader. DM

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