Demand for an end to killing in Ottery

Ottery and Parkwood residents marched to Grassy Park police station with a letter of demands.

In a response to the recent spate of gang shootings in Ottery, community workers and leaders, activists and residents handed over a letter demanding an end to the bloodshed.

On Wednesday April 20 the group made their way to the Grassy Park police station to hand over a memorandum of demands following several shootings in which innocent residents had been shot and killed. Among these were 17-year-old Seyed Johannes, 18-year-old Tamika Solomons and 26-year-old Monique Cottle.

The letter, accepted by Grassy Park police management, was written by the leadership of Ottery on behalf of concerned residents within the operational area of the Grassy Park police station.

The letter accuses Grassy Park police of no longer being able to address the ongoing crime, gangsterism and daily shootings in communities, Ottery in particular, and continues that the consequences of this inability have contributed to the death of innocent residents within a short period of time.

Paul Phillips, who read the letter aloud, said the community had no confidence in Grassy Park SAPS station commander Colonel Dawood Laing, his management or the station as a whole to fulfil their constitutional mandate to serve and protect communities.

Community workers, residents and activists joined the march to Grassy Park police station.

“The relationship and confidence between SAPS and the community is at an absolute all-time low,” he read from the letter.

The seven demands in the letter include the removal of the Grassy Park station commander and total clean-out of staff at the station; and immediate “real crime intervention” to address the daily shootings and high crime rate in the Grassy Park precinct.

In the letter, the community also calls for Ottery to be declared a red zone, that immediate response and resources are activated to address the situation in the area to prevent further bloodshed and loss of innocent lives and that satellite police points be established in Ottery and Parkwood Estate as emergency measures.

There was also a request for the national minister of police to be notified of the community’s plight, visit the affected area in person and sit and engage the affected communities – and that a forensic investigation be launched at the Grassy Park police station to investigate all allegations of corruption, poor service delivery and other public complaints.

The representatives expect a response within three working days.

According to residents the area has been fairly quiet with only a few sporadic shootings.

Former Ottery ward councillor Melanie Arendse, who led the march to the station, said several attempts had been made to address the gang issue in Ottery but their concerns had not been heard.

“We requested a meeting with the station commander but the community didn’t get the answers we needed because Colonel Laing basically said we have to deal with the issue.

“Innocent people are dying and we are told it’s our problem. We cannot go on like this and need help. Grassy Park police aren’t helping us so we decided to take the matter further,” she said.

Grassy Park Police Forum spokesperson Melvin Jonkers said the forum understood the community’s anger regarding the killing of innocent people and condemned the shootings. He added that it was unfair that the community could not live “a normal life” because of the shootings.

“The shootings affect the day-to-day lives of our people and we understand the frustration.”

However, said Mr Jonkers, the CPF did not support the removal of the station commander and criticised protesters for not coming up with constructive solutions.

“The solution doesn’t just lie with police but it is a multi-disciplinary intervention that must take place there. On one side policing must be enforced and on the other side, government departments must come to the fore and that is the only way we can tackle the issues in the area.”

Ward councillor Donovan Nelson also rejected the call for the removal of Grassy Park station commander and instead called upon the “real leaders” of Ottery to stand up and work with the police, like they had done in the past.

“While I praise the community for their heroic act in keeping the SAPS accountable, and ensuring that we bring the guilty suspects to book, I have to caution against opportunists using the death of innocent children as a way to score cheap political points,” he said.

In response to a poster being circulated on social media calling for the removal of Colonel Laing, Mr Nelson said it saddened him that the poster did not demand answers from the mational ministers of Police and Justice or the President with regards to drug houses and gangsters in communities.

“Our communities are suffering because of national cuts to the police budgets and a failing justice system that releases gunmen on R500 bail. This should be the real cry of our communities, not futile actions driven by so called ‘leaders’.”

He also appealed to the community to come forward with information relating to crime in affected communities: “Crime prevention is not just the responsibility of the SAPS but also every organisation and structure in the community”.

Major-General Sizakhele Dyantyi, the cluster commander of the Nyanga cluster, which includes the Grassy Park police station, accepted a memorandum from disgruntled community.

He said the Public Order Police (POP) and other law enforcement agencies had been deployed at the station on the day to ensure that law and order were maintained and that police services were not disrupted in any way.

“SAPS management in the province has taken cognisance of the concerns raised by the community and due process is being followed.”

JP Smith, the City’s Mayco member for safety and security said their specialised teams had been focusing on Ottery, Grassy Park and Hanover Park over the past few days and nights.

He said these areas remained valuable “trade territories” for the gangs controlling them and recent busts for cocaine suggested that the markets were already supplying their drugs to higher income markets.

“This is the reason these areas and the violent battles that occur and which terrorise the surrounding communities, are fought with such aggression and with a complete disregard for human life. While poverty continues to enslave our country, these gangs use poverty to their advantage by selling the false idea of “freedom”.

Mr Smith added that when communities protect their known gangsters, those communities were ultimately “joining” these same gangs. “When we protect the gang members around us, we give up our own safety and our own freedom. Silence the guns, not our freedom.”

He said any tip-offs could be made anonymously by calling the City’s public emergency call centre (PECC) on 021 480 7700.