CPF faces the heat

CPF chairman Fuad Titus

The Grassy Park Community Police Forum (CPF) has hit back at claims that the organisation was elected unconstitutionally and that it doesn’t represent all the residents in the area.

This comes after a meeting was held last week by some community leaders and residents from Grassy Park, Parkwood, Lotus River and Ottery.

The claim by organisations such as Voice of Parkwood and community leaders follows a stand-off where concerns were raised by the Grassy Park CPF about the Grassy Park police station (“Police called to task”, Southern Mail, March 15).

The forum marched with loud hailers and placards to the Grassy Park police station on Saturday March 11 to hand a memorandum over to the Department of Community Safety as well as provincial police.

The memorandum demanded the sacking of Grassy Park police station commander Colonel Shawn van Wyk, improvement of services and the response time to cases, among other things.

On the same day, however, an opposition group also protested outside Grassy Park police station in support of the station commander and said the CPF only represented a small portion of the community it serves (“Opposition groups backs police head”, Southern Mail, March 15).

Now the same group which opposed the CPF march has made claims that the CPF was not legally elected.

Paul Phillips, founder of NPO Voice of Parkwood, said they were concerned with the operations of the CPF.

“At the meeting we discussed the executive of the current CPF of the Grassy Park precinct, their non application and adherence to its own constitution and mandate, autocratic leadership style and how these things affect the relations between police, the community and the CPF,” said Mr Phillips.

“The memorandum that was handed over by the CPF last month has not gone through a public participation process, there was no consultation with community and other stakeholders and was drafted by the executive of the CPF and thus had no mandate to call for the removal of Colonel Van Wyk,” he added.

Mr Phillips said an open letter addressed to the MEC for Community Safety was submitted to counter and object to the memorandum handed over by the CPF.

“We want to look at a way forward and submitted a counter open letter to the relevant authorities to express concerns, objection to and to propose an alternative plan of action to address challenges within the partnership between police, the community and the CPF,” said Mr Phillips.

In the open letter, the group asks for the CPF to be dissolved with immediate effect.

The letter states: “The CPF was unconstitutionally appointed in their positions. The AGM in was rigged by certain members of the old guard. An investigation will prove our claim. The action of the public march planned and orchestrated by the CPF is contrary to the constitution and rules of engagement. In fact it has proves that the CPF has failed the community.”

The letter it also states that the CPF executive have their own personal agenda and that they undermined an important conduct in community policing.

“As a concerned community within Grassy Park precinct we hereby ask the authorities to ignore with contempt the memorandum. That Colonel Shawn van Wyk not be removed as he has been used as a scapegoat of the old guard by the unconstitutional elected CPF. We believe the march was not in the best interest of the CPF and the broader community, the CPF created a rift and disrespect in partnership.”

In response to the claims that the CPF does not represent the broader community, CPF spokesperson Phillip Bam hit back, saying that the organisations taking part in the objection to the memorandum doesn’t represent the greater Grassy Park area and that their concerns were never raised with the CPF.

“The march was not initiated by the CPF exco. It was in fact groups of neighbourhood watches and community members who initiated this and asked to do it under the auspices of the CPF. There is also a march committee.

“Some of the CPF executive members were not involved in the initial call for a march. It is a lie to claim that the CPF executive drafted the memorandum on its own. I was personally at one meeting where the draft was read to the committee of NHW leaders and approved,” Mr Bam said

In response to the claims that the CPF was not constitutionally elected, Mr Bam said the executive members were indeed elected in a general meeting of organisations chaired by police and the Department of Community Safety.

“The police had been the registering agency and cleared all organisations who applied for membership. It is nonsense to claim that the election was unconstitutional. If it was, the department and police would not have allowed it to continue,” said Mr Bam.

He added that the CPF is mandated by legislation to monitor and evaluate local police services and is completely within its mandate to raise concerns and to suggest remedial action.

“When service delivery takes a dive even after interactions with the police management, the CPF can resort to measures to escalate the concerns. The Grassy Park CPF will continue to speak out against bad service delivery and will not be intimidated by people who cannot see the big picture of bad policing,” said Mr Bam.

He said not all people would agree with every action taken to improve service delivery. “We regret the efforts of people who should know better than to create divisions in the community. They need to make up their minds and accept the call by the CPF to be part of it and work together towards a safe and crime-free area,”ended Mr Bam.

Fuad Titus, chairperson of the CPF, said: “We will always be available to see to the safety and security of the community even if it means that we have to check our policing partners. This we do without any fear or favour,”

MEC of Community Safety Dan Plato said he had not seen the open letter by the time of going to print but acknowledged receipt of the CPF’s memorandum.

“As a department, we have no operational control over the police in the province but have an important oversight mandate which we have legislated in the Community Safety Act.

“Community Policing Forums are statutory bodies provided in the police legislation therefore, CPFs are firstly a community entity under the police. From the department’s side we partner with the CPFs who have a very important oversight mandate in communities regarding police stations and we support the CPFs as per the Western Cape Community Safety,” he said.

He added that as part of the Department of Community Safety oversight mandate, it has undertaken to conduct an audit at the police station based on the National Monitoring Tool which entails assessing the station management, human and physical resources, the community service centre, sector policing, community-police relations, amongst other things.

“ Although the Grassy Park CPF does not participate in the EPP (Expanded Partnership Programme) in order for the department to intervene timeously or to report on any systemic issues at Grassy Park station to the SAPS provincial office, the department’s area manager responsible for the Mitchells Plain Cluster has been tasked to engage with the Grassy Park CPF to facilitate a process whereby community police relations could be restored and preserved,” said Mr Plato.