Cape Town - A new station commander has been appointed and at least 40 extra police officers will be brought to Philippi East police station to crack down on the murders that left 18 people dead in the Marikana informal settlement over the past 10 days, Police Minister Fikile Mbalula said on Tuesday.
Speaking at the hall of Vuyiseka Senior Secondary School following a private meeting inside the police station, Mbalula said that officers were going to be combative, and increase their policing in the area.
He said the command at the police station had been changed because the community had "implicated" the police officers who had been stationed there and no longer trusted them.
He said the old commander, Colonel Vuyisile Payi, was not suspected of any wrongdoing, but a drastic change was needed to restore trust.
The new commander, Colonel Bongani Mtakati, would take over from Payi, who had only been in the post since January. He had been in an acting capacity before that.
Police helping criminals - Mbalula
Mbalula said facilities at the police station would be upgraded to make policing easier. He also called on the City of Cape Town to ensure that the local community patrollers get the equipment that they need to play their part, such as flashlights to use down the dark alleys.
However, he said it was a "scientific fact" that the police were also fighting corrupt colleagues within their ranks.
"Criminals are being assisted in most of the difficult crimes by the police," he said.
Asked whether the previous commander was among those, he said: "There is nothing that we can pin on him, but we need to respond. So, Mtakati will take over because the deaths of 18 people is not child's play," he said, with Mtakati and the provincial police commissioner Lieutenant General Khombinkosi Jula with him.
Earlier, Jula told the people gathered in the community hall that he regarded Friday night's shootings as a "massacre" that should never happen again.
Seven people were killed in the Marikana informal settlement, which is close to the Cape Town International Airport, west of the city, on September 25.
Then on Friday night, September 29, 11 people died after a shooting that began at a tavern deep in the narrow alleys between the shacks of Marikana, which have no lighting or space for police vehicles to rush through.
'Very useless gathering'
When the community stormed the station last Saturday, they accused the police officers of refusing to respond to crimes. Members of the community said they were told by police that officers would not come into the area because they are too scared to go there.
Residents said they had handed in a memorandum and regularly pleaded for help.
They demanded to speak to Jula, who made a low-key arrival later on Saturday once the community had left. His spokesperson, Brigadier Novela Potelwa, said that Major General Mpumelelo Manci would lead a special team of detectives to help crack the shootings case.
However, local resident and member of the provincial legislature Nceba Hinana said he was not impressed with Mbalula's promises.
"This is a very, very useless gathering," he said. "I thought he was going to tell us what he was going to do to restore law and order," said Hinana.
The shacks in Marikana, not to be confused with a settlement of the same name in Rustenburg where 34 miners were killed in a clash with police in 2012, was built on privately owned land near the airport and residents live with the constant roar of jets flying low over them as they approach the landing strip.
1 000 officers to 1.9 million residence
The owners of the land include German immigrant Manfred Stock; a woman who has lived there for 50 years, Iris Fischer; and a number of private companies.
In an application brought by the owners to the Western Cape High Court in February, the City of Cape Town was requested to ask the national and provincial government for money for the buyout because the owners had no intention of evicting the estimated 60 000 residents, considering it a "disastrous" move.
The settlement has tightly packed small shacks, with portable toilets positioned at various spots for communal use, but no other services, including street lighting.
In her judgment on August 30, Judge Chantal Fortuin found that the City of Cape Town had violated its constitutional obligations to both the owners and occupiers of the land, GroundUp reported at the time.
The court ordered the city to enter into negotiations to purchase the occupied land and to consider expropriation if necessary. The court also ordered that the national and provincial government must provide funds for the purchase of the properties if it will cost more than the City of Cape Town can afford.
Marikana and Philippi East fall under the Nyanga policing cluster, which has about 1 000 police officers to assist a population of around 1.9 million people in Nyanga, Manenberg, Bishop Lavis, Gugulethu, Elsie's River and Philippi East.