Murder sparks anger

2015-05-05 06:00

The murder of a foreign national in Westlake has not only riled up residents, but has seen the community launch a scathing attack on Kirstenhof police.

During a public meeting held at the community hall last week, residents did not hold back as they voiced their concerns and frustrations.

Opening the meeting, Kirstenhof Police Station commander Lieutenant-Colonel June Cilliers explained officers wanted to meet with residents following an incident a week earlier. “Between 250 and 300 residents came to the station because a man was murdered. The suspect has been arrested and we want to hear your concerns,” she said.

In an attempt to allay fears that foreign nationals were being targeted in Westlake, police gave a crime overview, dividing the statistics into race categories. Officers stated that while two of the latest murder victims were foreign nationals, there was no trend indicating foreign nationals are at risk.

In her address, Cilliers highlighted the need for children to be kept safe.

“I see small children late at night in Westlake and I ask, where are the parents? And when your children go missing, it is intolerable that I must leave my children to find yours (sic).”

The commander also raised the closing times of spaza shops as a concern and said they were an easy target for robbers. She also made a plea for residents to join street committees and help in the fight against crime.

“We are going to have another meeting and establish street committees. We all have a role to play and when something happens you know who is responsible and you must come forward,” she said.

The floor was opened to questions and about 10 residents stood at the front of the packed hall. Commenting on the recent murder, the first two residents said the suspect should not be released and should not return to Westlake. They also made a plea for residents to show up and protest at the court appearance.

A third resident, a Malawian man who identified himself only as Robert, said groups of men who congregate at spaza shops were responsible for the crime.

“The police know about them but just drive past. If the police don’t want to deal with them hand the power to us,” he said angrily as residents cheered loudly.

“Yes, yes,” women shouted in agreement.

Pastor Thulani Maxi claimed police services were biased and racist as black people were treated differently to coloured people.

He told of an incident where a police van had parked in front of his home. When he asked the officer to move so he could get into his yard, he says the officer swore at him.

“Your police must be professional. They are public servants. They can’t behave like that,” said Maxi, amid cheers from the crowd. Continuing, Maxi put the question to Cilliers: “You say you see children on the street late at night but you can’t see the shebeens selling liquor illegally?”

In response, Cilliers said residents had raised important concerns and police wanted to know what they thought.

“It doesn’t matter if they are negative. We want to know what you have to say. We want everyone to be treated equally.”

She highlighted a lack of police resources as the station’s biggest challenge and said she had to “stretch the little” she had. “I also think the justice department must be at the next meeting so they can hear your concerns. Everyone has a role to play. The drinking in the parks is a law enforcement issue, not a police one,” she said.

Kirstenhof Community Police Forum (CPF) chairperson Geoff Fox asked those who raised concerns to write down their contact details. He explained the issues would be taken up by the CPF in meetings with police. He echoed Cilliers’ sentiments about the lack of resources.

The meeting concluded with residents agreeing to volunteer for street committees. V

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