All is not well among Kraaifontein crime fighters. Instead of presenting a united front to criminals in a community with a high crime rate, they seemed to be in a state of disarray at a meeting last week.
Guest speaker Andrew Boraine, chief executive of the Western Cape Economic Development Partnership, stressed the important role of collaborative leadership and cohesion in an organisation, during the Tygerberg Cluster’s Community Police Forums (CPF) general meeting, at the Sanlam Centre’s CR Louw Auditorium on Thursday August 25, but several representatives from crime-fighting groups suggested these qualities were sorely lacking in their campaign against crime, which is, they said, instead blighted by infighting, a lack of support for the youth, inaction and resignations in CPFs, and an incoherent programme between police and forums, among other issues.
Cluster chairwoman Lesley Ashton led the meeting, along with her deputy, Sean McCleland, cluster treasurer Denzil Smerdon and cluster commander Major-General Mpumelelo Manci.
Mr Boraine’s message resonated with several members of the audience. Kevin Riddles, a Scottsville resident and chairman of the Community Law and Order Foundation, pleaded with the cluster to find ways for Mr Boraine to work regularly with the seven police stations and the seven CPFs that fall under it. He lamented the relationship between Kraaifontein police and the CPF.
“There is no unity, and there is no vision and there are power struggles (within the CPF ),” he said. Mr Riddles said a friend of his, whom he described as a capable CPF member, had resigned because of the current state of the forum.
“What sickness does this organisation have that someone who is good just steps down?”
Mr Riddles described Kraaifontein as a “destabilised” community. He said Kraaifontein station commander Brigadier Gerda van Niekerk had been reduced to tears by the state of Kraaifontein at a recent meeting. Brigadier Van Niekerk was not available for comment at the time of going to print.
Asked by Parow North Neighbourhood Watch member Ben Helderberg what the police were doing about staff shortages in the service, Major-General Manci said the SAPS had recently deployed nearly 1 000 more constables in the Tygerberg Cluster. “We will continue recruiting, though,” he said.
Kobus Conradie, of Kraaifontein, said the Department of Community Safety, the police and CPFs were not working together. “There is no communication among you; you need to get Mr Boraine involved. You guys are dropping the ball. We talk about it on the ground and in braais,” he said.
Mr McCleland said the City had rolled out 12 radio towers across the metro. This would improve communication between the neighbourhood watches, CPFs and the police.
Derrick Letlaila, Wallacedene Neighbourhood Watch chairman, said: “Our youngsters are busy doing drugs because there are no sports or any other extramural programmes in Wallacedene. We need assistance.”
He said the neighbourhood watch wanted to see a “politics-free” Kraaifontein CPF and the Department of Community Safety needed to help in Wallacedene as much as the police did with projects and crime.
Mr McCleland said the cluster and the Wallacedene Neighbourhood Watch needed to sit down with the cluster and discuss what kind of programmes Wallacedene youth needed.
The Kraaifontein CPF leadership said it was always on the receiving end of unfair treatment. The CPF’s vice-chairman, Rob Bisset, compared the CPF with an army on the frontline and asked for bullet-proof vests.
“We and the neighbourhood watch members are always first on a crime scene. It’s not easy to confront criminals with guns.”
Kraaifontein CPF chairman Mawethu Sila called for Bambanani guards to be brought back to help CPFs. He also said that while the forum was united, cluster management had not supported it. In particular, he claimed that a friend of Ms Ashton’s was trying to destroy the CPF and that one of its members had quit because of pressure fromher. He also accused her of being caught in a conflict of interest as she was both cluster chairwoman and secretary of the Western Cape Community Police Forum.
Responding on behalf of Ms Ashton, Mr McCleland said the cluster leadership would look into the allegations, but he added that “the issue” with Ms Ashton, had been resolved. He referred to a disciplinary hearing she had faced in 2014 while she was in the Kraaifontein CPF and after it had accused her of working againstit. However, the issue had then been settled by the cluster after she was elected as its chairwoman.
Bellville station commander Brigadier Andre van Dyk said they had managed to turn the tide against crime in the precinct in the past five years because of close cooperation with the CPF and neighbourhood watch.
“Without them, Bellville could have been worse. We will continue where we left off, especially when we get radios.” He advised other police stations to work closely with community structures to achieve a similar goal.
In her chairwoman’s report, Ms Ashton said there was a need for an eighth police stationthat would fall under the cluster. She said further details would be discussed with the police. She said police knew this, but it had not been prioritised. “A letter has been sent again (to the police),” she said.
Ms Ashton also lamented a “skeletal staff structure” that the cluster’s police stations worked with.
Also notable, she said, was a lack of deputy commanders or two colonels in the visible policing and detective services. These posts had been suspended since April 2015. A letter had been sent to the provincial commissioner, requesting that this “compromised situation” for the cluster be addressed as soon as possible.
She said it was important for CPF representatives and the police to “ensure that our partnerships are effective” by reporting “monthly or at least quarterly” on headway with the community safety plan.