On Tuesday, Minister of Police Bheki Cele became the latest police minister to launch a crime prevention operation for Cape Town. Operation Thunder was announced at the Portland indoor centre, Mitchells Plain.
Cele said 269 police officers had been deployed to work for three months in Cape Town. The situation would be assessed at the end of the three-month period, and should there be a need to stay longer, they would, he said.
“The operation came out of the concern of the communities in the Cape Flats and African townships for the murders that are taking place, drugs and gangsterism,” said Cele.
In January, Cele’s predecessor, Fikile Mbalula, had announced 100 more officers for Nyanga, and in February he announced that “we have managed to quell the gang situation” in Cape Town.
Cele was accompanied by other high-ranking police officials, including national commissioner General Khehla John Sitole and Western Cape commissioner Lieutenant-General Khombinkosi Jula.
Residents from a number of areas came to raise their concerns about crime. Vrygrond resident and chairperson of the Muizenberg community policing forum Yoliswa Nqame told the minister there was a need for a police station in Vrygrond.
Residents from Vrygrond have to catch a taxi or hire private cars to access the police station in Muizenberg, which caters mostly to the more affluent communities of Kalk Bay, St James, Muizenberg and Marina Da Gama.
Chairperson of the Mitchells Plain community policing forum Lucinda Evans said: “I want to say to you minister and your leadership … we are not safe to walk in our streets … blood is running down our streets.”
“This programme [Operation Thunder] needs to be sustainable. It cannot be we parachute in and parachute out,” said Evans.
Residents, such as Gregg Steven Fick of Mitchells Plain, were sceptical.
“In 90 days you will not be able to protect us against the thousands of crimes that are committed by violent gangs,” he said.
Delivering his budget speech in Parliament later in the day, Cele said Tafelsig would get a station by 2021; Makhaza by 2022; and Samora Machel by 2023, but will have a mobile station in the meantime.
Samora Machel currently falls within the Nyanga police precinct, which has the highest number of murders in the country, according to Crime Stats SA. Makhaza falls under the Harare police precinct, which has the sixth-highest number of murders; and Tafelsig falls under Mitchells Plain police precinct.
Makhaza: waiting since 2004
An open field in Makhaza was proposed as the site on which to build the Makhaza police station back in 2004. During the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry in 2014, it came to light that the Makhaza police station was the second highest in priority on the list of stations to be built in the Western Cape as far back as 2004. Yet construction has not started, 15 years later.
Lingelethu West: waiting since 2014
The Khayelitsha commission in 2014 also recommended that Lingelethu West satellite police station, which currently has no holding cells and where dockets are kept in a storage container, be upgraded. In answering GroundUp’s inquiries, the ministry of police ignored questions about the status of Khayleitsha’s Lingelethu station.
Samora Machel: maybe 2023
Nyanga police station services six areas: Philippi Brown’s Farm, Old Crossroads, Nyanga East, Sweet Home Farm, Samora Machel and Heinz Park. The 2011 census recorded that there were nearly 60,000 people living in Nyanga. That number has since “increased rapidly”, said police. There were 281 murders in the 2017 statistics year.
The current police station in Nyanga does not have enough space to house its detectives and the family violence and child protection and sexual offences unit is at Mitchells Plain.
Police have placed a 24-hour satellite station in Brown’s Farm informal settlement, but residents say it is inadequate as serious crimes are only investigated by detectives at the Nyanga station.
In April 2016, deputy provincial commissioner for operational services Thembisile Patekile told residents that a lack of land was preventing the building of a police station in Samora Machel.
National spokesperson for the police Colonel Athlenda Mathe told GroundUp the Samora Machel police station was currently in “site clearance phase”.
“The Nyanga Police Station is earmarked for repair and upgrade as priority number 134 on the South African Police Service’s User Asset Management Plan. The upgrade to the facility includes additional ramps, disabled facilities, parking and ramps,” said Mathe.