Let us build good community-policing relations in combating gangsterism

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) has learned with astonishment the brazen attack on six members of the anti-gang unit which took place in Samora Machel, Western Cape, while they were on a mission on Wednesday morning.

This unfortunate incident took place just days after concerning reports of several communities around the country continuing to be overwhelmed by gangsterism, which has over the past two weeks led to the killing of at least 14 people in Lavender Hill in the Western Cape.

This has now become a clear attack on the state and all its institutions that are aimed at promoting peace and stability, and this trend should immediately be nipped in the bud.

It is an attack aimed at silencing and generating fear among our communities, eradicating people’s inalienable rights to freedoms of speech, movement and association.

We should never oblige to its pressures.

We are hopeful that with the arrest of a 26-year old suspect in Paarl, and the deployment of the 200 officers, all perpetrators will soon be apprehended.

Most important for us as a civil rights union is the need to encourage social partnerships which should include, among others, the establishment and strengthening of vetted community safety forums and police forums to serve as avenues that will help in combating crime and building a bridge between community and police officers in communities, while ensuring that criminals do not harbour themselves within these structures to advance their own inimical activities.     

This collapsed relationship has perpetuated serious mistrust between the communities and police officers, which often result in police officers being perceived as enemies and subsequently attacked by community members and opening avenues for gang havens.

It is only through the restoration of such a relation that we can commonly find sufficient mechanisms in eradicating gangsterism from our communities.

We also urge the SAPS management to speedily address the resource challenges faced by many of our police stations. The uneven allocation of resources has also been exacerbated by the lack of proper spatial design and population dynamics in some of these areas.

We have on numerous occasions raised a grave concern on the fact that the South African Police Service’s human and physical resource allocation has been, and continues to be, a deep-seated challenge with severe adverse effects to both the police officers and the community at large.

These and many other factors such as being understaffed have rendered police stations and police officers on the ground susceptible to incursions by heavily armed gangsters.

Let us join hands in reclaiming our communities.

Issued by POPCRU on 14/06/2019