Westbury residents demand that Cele brings back amaberethe

Police Minister Bheki Cele.
Police Minister Bheki Cele.
Photo: Adrian de Kock

Residents of Westbury, in Johannesburg, have threatened to embark on more protests should Police Minister Bheki Cele not reinstate the Tactical Response Team (TRT).

On Tuesday, police reacted quickly when they prevented community members from barricading roads in the area.

Residents had set alight tyres and blocked some streets, protesting about shootings by gangsters and drug dealers in the area.

Officers from the SAPS Public Order Policing unit and Johannesburg Metro Police Department were deployed in the area. They prevented residents from blocking Commando Road with burning tyres, mattresses and other objects.

 READ: Cele promises to send in 'amaberethe' to deal with drug lords in Westbury

Residents claimed that they were angered by the withdrawal of criminal charges against Livert May and Shaeez Moolgie.

May and Moolgie were arrested in October for the murder of Heather Petersen and the attempted murder of a minor who was with Petersen at the time.

Community leader Carol Sallie said that the court had released the two last Tuesday.

"We want Cele back to our community again. His presence brought change and calm. He did a good job by deploying the TRT. Since the TRT members have left, we are no longer safe.

"Drugs are being sold everywhere, bullets are fired throughout the day, and gang fighting has begun. We will continue protesting until the TRT is brought back in Westbury," she said.

'Our children are not safe'

Sallie added that on Saturdays and Sundays, bullets flew all over the area.

"Our children are not safe. Imagine if they could be caught by stray bullets. We want Cele to come and do a tour in the area. We are going to show him houses where drugs are being sold. We want him to feel what this area has been turned into.

"We are aware that Cele promised that TRT members won’t stay here forever, but we need them to be here for a long time and continue cleaning the place as they did," she said.

Another resident, Lareez Segelbergh, expressed similar sentiments, saying the TRT unit had brought calm to the area. She pleaded with Cele to reinstate the unit in Westbury.

"We used to walk freely at night, knowing we will not be mugged. There were no gunshots. But their absence has allowed criminals to take charge again," said Segelbergh.

READ: 2 Westbury police officers arrested for allegedly burying murder evidence

Police spokesperson Captain Kay Makhubele confirmed that two men who were arrested earlier in the year had been released. He did not name them. 

"We are aware that people that we have arrested have been released by the court. However, we will continue investigating cases that have been opened in the area. Our members who are patrolling the area will continue being in the area until calm is restored," said Makhubele.

The TRT unit (or amaberethe, as they are commonly known) was deployed to the area in October to bring stability, following days of protests after Petersen was killed in the crossfire between alleged drug dealers.  

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