Blame game at meeting

2019-07-16 06:00
A community meeting got heated at the Bruce Road Community Hall last week.

A community meeting got heated at the Bruce Road Community Hall last week. (Nomzamo Yuku)

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The saying “if you cannot catch a fish, do not blame the sea” became a reality at the Grassy Park Community Policing (CPF) meeting when the blame was shifted back and forth between the community and the police. 

This emotionally charged public meeting was attended by different law enforcement agencies at Bruce Road Community Hall on Tuesday 9 July.

The meeting followed after the Grassy Park police failed to attend one on Tuesday 11 June in Lotus River (”Police absence angers residents”, People’s Post, 25 June).

In that meeting complaints were made in the absence of the police, but this time around the station commander, Colonel Dawood Laing apologised and gave feedback on the complaints. 

Complaints included poor service, an alleged unethical behaviour by the station, traffic congestion, the impact of the new commercial developments and dumping.

Residents turned out in numbers to get the feedback, however, they were not satisfied. They challenged the CPF and the police to “man up” and seek solutions on behalf of the residents. 

This was after CPF chairperson Melvin Jonkers and spokesperson Philip Bam could not give detailed responses about what was meant by the correspondence from the City of Cape Town regarding the developments of two supermarkets on Victoria Road. 

According to them, the City advised that there were no environmental and traffic studies necessary as the development was in an area zoned for general commercial developments. They said the City told them the owners were, however, required to provide sufficient parking area to avoid congestion. 

The public suggested that the CPF could have rather demanded clarity in terms of where and how much of parking would be sufficient and if no environmental study was necessary, what is the City doing to ensure the sanitation system is suitable to accommodate the anticipated population growth in the area. Residents also wanted to know why there was no public participation to discuss the matter. 

Jonkers said the CPF was still engaging with the City and would give an update on the progress. Jonkers said they understand the frustration among the residents and encourage continuous engagements to further get to the bottom of the issues within their precinct. 

During the presentation against imitation guns, Bam added that residents should do their part in eliminating crime. He said fighting crime and finding solutions should start “around the table in the dining room or kitchen.”

On the other hand, Laing said he was aware of the allegations against officers. These include corruption, delayed responses to crime scenes and other unethical behaviours. He said disciplinary actions are being conducted and internal investigations are underway. He encouraged the public to identify and provide reference numbers when logging complaints against the officers. 

“It is important that you ask for a reference number and get the identity of the officer helping. That helps when doing a follow-up or having to carry out an investigation,” Laing said.

He said a complaint form plan will be available and he will respond to that “within five days”. Laing said they are working closely with local law enforcement agencies to fight crime. He mentioned weekly operations conducted every Fridays, an adopt-a-school programme and public engagements. He added that the community needs to play its part and stop protecting criminals, mistreating officers and making false accusations.

He said officers were being attacked and threatened while attending crime scenes or investigating cases. He also spoke against violent protests, saying “as much as you have a good reason to be angry, once you break the law or become a threat to those not involved in your action we have to intervene, and you will have to face the consequences.” Laing was responding to accusations that police arrested innocent protesters two months ago (“Protesters nabbed,” People’s Post, 4 April).

Residents disagreed, saying some officers are rude and can be violent at times. 

They also said officers cannot be trusted as some allegedly leak information to suspects or other residents causing conflicts in the communities. Residents said police cannot fight crime for as long as there are officers allegedly working with criminals and fail to honour their oath. Residents called for transparency between them, police and the law enforcement agents. 

“It is now time for action, not words, not programmes. We all need to rally against these illegal activities. We would love the CPF to lead us and start by eradicating the imitation guns in our communities and shops and having reported information verified by the police. We will then be able to reduce crime and eliminating the corrupt ones among us,” said Melanie Arendse, one of the residents.

Commenting on the developments, Mayco member for spatial planning and development, Marian Nieuwoudt said in terms of the “SPAR development”, the development complies with the rules of the Municipal Planning By-Law (MPBL) and no public participation was required.

Nieuwoudt said access arrangements and on-site parking was considered enough for the two developments in terms of the approvals granted.

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