Angry Eastern Cape villagers attack police station, lock up 'useless, unreliable' cops

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  • Angry villagers fed up of "useless" and "unreliable" police officers, attacked their local police station.
  • The villagers locked up the entrance with padlocks and left six police officers inside while a flag pole was damaged.
  • Four suspects were arrested for public violence and malicious damage to property. 

Angry Eastern Cape villagers, fed up with "unreliable" and "useless" police officers, stormed their local police station and locked up six police officers on Sunday.

During the attack on the Tyefu police station near Peddie, property - including the police flag pole - were damaged, said Eastern Cape police spokesperson Brigadier Thembinkosi Kinana.

The chaotic scenes played out at the station last Sunday.

Kinana said the four suspects, two men and two women aged between 28 and 62, had been arrested and charged for public violence and malicious damage to property.

He said they would also be charged with contravening disaster management regulations governing Level 3 of the Covid-19 lockdown.

ALSO READ | Five armed men hold up Eastern Cape cop shop, steal guns

The four appeared in Peddie Magistrate's  Court on 20 January and the case was postponed to 18 February.

They were all released on bail, said Kinana.

A protester, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, said slow response times and excuses of unavailability of vehicles from local police stations had angered residents.

"Crime is rife here in Kwa Ndwayana, Qamnyana and Dlambe villages. Our police officers, who are paid with our public money, dose off and leave us to fight criminals ourselves. Enough is enough. Every weekend there is an incident here, armed robberies are out of control. We are tired of useless and unreliable police officers," he said.

The source said, although there were more than 100 people who had attacked the police station, he was surprised that they only chose to arrest four people.

A police source told News24 that the four were arrested in the early hours of Monday morning at their homes, hours after the incident had occurred. The experienced officer said this was a strange procedure by his colleagues.

Asked about this, Kinana said the four had been arrested after "an investigation into the actions of the group was conducted".

Tyefu is one of 198 police stations in the Eastern Cape and one of the smallest. It falls under the Makhanda police  cluster.

"This office confirms that indeed a group of community members, who are believed to have been concerned with services delivery, stormed Tyefu police station demanding that police vacate the station. During the said protest, the property of the station, which included the flag poles, was damaged. They are also alleged to have closed the police station with padlocks and thereafter left to gather in the local community hall."

Kinana said the police officers had to remove the padlocks in order to continue with "services to people who were not part of the protest".

"Community members who gathered in the hall were also addressed by the police in an attempt to guide them on how to voice out their concerns without embarking on violent means to resolve their challenges."

Kinana added that the provincial police and district management would be engaging with the local leadership in order to hear the "challenges" facing the community in that area.

Further engagements were planned to avert any possible recurrence of violent protests, added Kinana.

Eastern Cape Community Police Forum board chairperson Velani Mbiza-Gola said, while residents had a right to express their dissatisfaction with the police, they had to act within the rule of the law. 

Mbiza-Gola said he welcomed the promise from police management to visit the angry community to find a solution.

"SAPS is no longer a police force, but a police service. Communities are encouraged to engage the police on matters. The police forum will make sure to be part of the meetings," said Mbiza-Gola.

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