'I will bring in soldiers if necessary', Cele tells Cape Town community who wants bad cops booted out

The community of Philippi East is demanding that Minister of Police Bheki Cele deploys more police to the area, GroundUp has reported.

This comes after six women, aged 18 to 26, were found shot dead on Friday evening, and five men, aged 18 to 39, were found shot dead on Saturday.

Two other unrelated murders were also reported in the area over the weekend, bringing the total for the weekend to 13, News24 reported.

"The motive for these shooting incidents remains the subject of an intensive police investigation," said Western Cape SAPS spokesperson Captain Frederick van Wyk.

Community members confronted Cele and other officials at the Lower Crossroads community hall in Philippi East, where he had gone to hear their grievances on Monday.

"Please hire a permanent station commander and deploy police who wear berets to patrol on foot around the clock because gangs are finishing us off here," community leader Ncedo Marikeni told Cele.

He said that he and other residents were scared to report crime because police informed criminals about them.

"When you report crime to the police, the information filters through to gangs and you become unsafe afterwards," said Marikeni.

READ: Cele adamant cops are not losing the war on crime in the Western Cape 

Community leader Siphokazi Henisi said she and many residents wanted the minister to deploy current Philippi East police officials elsewhere, saying they harass innocent residents.

"We want you to hire new cops because the ones working at the police station beat us up at night," she said.

Community leader Xolisa Pukani said: "We want to work as reservists and assist the police in fighting crime. Tell us how many reservists you want."

Pukani said: "Police say they have only two vans and the national Department of Police doesn't care about them."

This is not the first time 10 or more people have been gunned down in a single weekend in the area and residents have said they have lost faith in the police.

In 2017, after 11 people were shot dead on a single weekend, then minister of police Fikile Mbalula visited the Marikana community and promised more police resources for the Philippi East police station.

Ward councillor Nelson Chitha said he last saw station commander Colonel Bongani Mthakathi in December 2018.

"Some say he works in Tokai; others say he is in the Eastern Cape. We don't know his whereabouts."

"In the absence of a permanent station commander, no one guides the police and runs things at the station. Consequently, criminals do as they please," said Chitha.

Community leader Lubabalo Maliti said Mthakathi worked hard after Mbalula posted him at the station.

"Colonel Mthakathi was super active as he patrolled along with cops, dressed in his civvies and driving a private car."

"The acting station commander is invisible now," he said.

Maliti said: "Mthakathi used to follow up cases and even chase thugs himself. When he returns to work, we want all the bad cops who are in cahoots with criminals to be removed from the station."

Bheki Cele
Police Minister Bheki Cele speaks during a community gathering in Philippi East. (Vincent Lali, GroundUp)

Cele told the residents that he would draft a Technical Response Team to combat crime in Philippi East.

"We will have to borrow cops from other areas. We need to deploy lots of cops," he said.

Drawing applause from the residents, Cele said: "I will bring in soldiers if necessary."

He said he would meet the security cluster and justice cluster to devise ways to reduce crime in Philippi East. He also said he had seen the memorandum of demands which the residents handed over to the police station on Sunday. Cele promised that after five days, he would return to check which demands had been met and which still needed to be dealt with.

He asked the residents to work with the police so that the murderers could be arrested.

"When we knock on your doors, you must hand the gang members who are in your houses over to the police," said Cele.

Mayco Member for Safety and Security JP Smith commented: "Every time there is a flare-up of violence, we point to the fact that SAPS (the SA Police Service) in the Western Cape is woefully under-resourced compared to the rest of the country... Our appeals to national government to address the issue cannot continue to go unheard."

"We ask, yet again, that they take extraordinary steps to fill the estimated 4 500 policing posts that the Western Cape has lost in the last four years," he said.

Captain Van Wyk said Public Order Police, the K9 Unit and Flying Squad members had activated a 72-hour action plan involving a "lockdown and operations" in Philippi East.

"From an investigation perspective, detectives with Crime Intelligence are hard at work following leads that could result in the arrest of the perpetrators of these incidents," he said.

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