Spat over arrest of crime-fighter

SOYISO MALITI

The Wallacedene Community Police Forum has threatened to stop working with the Kraaifontein police after they arrested its chairman for illegal liquor trading.

The Wallacedene structure is a sub-forum of the Kraaifontein Community Police Forum.

Derrick Letlaile, 50, says he has the backing of his structure to “discontinue working with Kraaifontein SAPS”. He claims police ill-treated him during his arrest at a raid on his house in Phase 10 on Friday night March 4.

Kraaifontein CPF chairman Mawethu Fila said the matter was raised at a meeting with Kraaifontein station commander Brigadier Gerda van Niekerk on Thursday night March 10.

Mr Fila said he had urged Mr Letlaile to hold off on approaching the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) until an internal investigation into his arrest had been done.

Meanwhile the sub-forum has vowed to back its chairman and wants him to approach Ipid without delay.

“We are fully behind our chairman in this. He needs to take it up with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate,” sub-forum deputy chairman Msondezi Mbimba told the Northern News.

Mr Mbimba said that while he did not condone illegal liquor trading a “whiff of diplomacy” was needed when arresting “an upstanding crime-fighter”.

He said the way the arrest was conducted had “racist undertones”.

“The way they arrested him wasn’t right at all,” said Mr Msobenzi.

He described Mr Letlaile as a “diligent member who made things happen”.

Mr Letlaile claims that when police arrested him they broke an unwritten “pact”, which he claimed existed between them and the CPF sub-forums, to limit the number of shebeens and the number of beers they sold, while keeping crime out of their neighbourhoods.

He claims he was locked up with dangerous criminals in Kraaifontein police station holding cells before being released later that same night without being charged.

He said he had to consult a doctor at the Kraaifontein Day Hospital following his arrest because of discomfort in his neck and head caused by being flung about in the back of a speeding police van.

However, provincial health spokesman Tembisithemisa Magubane told Northern News there was no record of Mr Letlaile visiting the day hospital.

Asked if he had approached Ipid, Mr Letlaile said his busy scheduled, which included building houses in Boesak Street, had prevented him from doing so.

However, he planned to do so soon, even though the Kraaifontein CPF had asked him to wait until the internal investigation had been wrapped up.

Mr Letlaile said he had worked hard to rid Wallacedene of serious crime including rape and murder and cop killings, so his arrest had taken him by surprise.

“Now we have been gripped by a fear of police brutality… The same people we’re supposed to be working with. How are people going to respect me when they see me get kicked into a van like that?” he asked.

“I sacrifice my life with my family to get this kind of gratitude?”

Mr Letlaile said while he knew it was illegal to sell liquor without a licence, most CPF members were unemployed and were left to “hustle in their own ways so our kids can survive”.

“We will cancel our membership if we continue being treated like this, even though we serve against serious criminals,” he said.

“We are not criminals.”

Mr Letlaile said he sold no more than two “take-away” beers to his customers – a common trade in several houses in Wallacedene.

He had used his experience as a former Umkhonto weSizwe intelligence guerrilla in exile to help the police catch criminals.

“We give the police critical information regarding crime in the area, but we get treated like criminals for selling a single case of liquor.”

Northern News emailed questions to the Kraaifontein police and left several phone messages for Brigadier Van Niekerk, but none of them were returned by the time this edition went to print.

However, it appears the police forwarded the questions to Ruben Myburg, Kraaifontein CPF secretary, who responded on their behalf.

He claimed no formal meeting specifically relating to the incident had taken place, and he said Mr Letlaile should provide the CPF with a doctor’s letter detailing his injuries “to substantiate his statement”.

Mr Myburg said they were unaware of any “pact with any shebeen owner”.

Any information or evidence helping to substantiate claims about the existence of such a pact would be “investigated without ado”.