No confidence in the law

A memorandum with a declaration of a vote of no confidence was handed over to the Grassy Park police and Community Police Forum.

The community of Parkwood and surrounding areas were left angry after a Grassy Park police officer accused of sexual impropriety was granted bail.

The uproar led them to declare a memorandum of “no confidence” in the community police forum (CPF) as well as SAPS, on Friday October 18.

Residents of Pelican Park, Parkwood, Lotus River, Ottery and Grassy Park teamed up to consult the authorities after news hit the headlines last Friday October 11, that community worker Rogayba Adams, in fear of her life, adhered to the request of an armed Grassy Park police officer Sergeant Winston van Schalkwyk, for her to touch his private parts, at her home in New Horizon.

Ms Adams told Southern Mail she knew the officer very well through working with him in the community. At first when he asked her to touch his private parts, she thought it was a joke, because they were having a friendly chat over cake and tea. “He was always assisting me in helping the community. I remember one incident where he (Sergeant van Schalkwyk) helped me find the baby of a substance abusing young mother from Lavender Hill whose husband kidnapped their child.”

The shocked Ms Adams said her son and domestic worker had gone to the shop and her other son was upstairs in the bedroom.

She said it happened in the dining room when Sergeant van Schalkwyk asked her to touch him.

Ms Adams had been a victim of rape eight years ago and she feared the officer might shoot her. “Flashbacks from when I was raped came back and I was afraid he might use his gun on me.”

Ms Adams said when her son and the domestic worker came back, the officer slapped her domestic worker’s behind.

Ms Adams and her husband reported the incident, as did the domestic worker of her sexual assault, at Grassy Park police.

The incident has caused a stir in the community and Ms Adams’ long time friend, former ward councillor, Melanie Arendse, told Southern Mail that the community had no confidence in the CPF and SAPS.

“I know Rogayba for a very long time and we grew up together. She was friends with many of the police officers as they assist her when she feeds the community. That officer came into her house as an acquaintance.”

Ms Arendse said although this incident caused distrust in the police department, “we can’t paint every officer with the same brush.”

Pastor Paul Phillips of the Voice of Parkwood said there was a communication problem between the community and SAPS. “The CPF is distant from the community, and they do not fulfil their purpose of being the link between SAPS and community. They do not have (the community’s) concerns and challenges at heart, rather they are not functional on many levels and they are operating as if they are a government and an entity on its own.

“We had (this) case of the sexual assault by an Grassy Park SAPS officer, no objection for bail, no outright condemnation as was promised when we confronted them.

“They need to be forensically investigated into their operations. The CPF can’t just exist via media releases, but must literally act and perform for the community through various strategies and programmes which are absent.”

The Grassy Park CPF sent out a media release from chairperson Melvin Jonkers, who pointed out their “disappointment in the allegations of sexual assault against one of the policemen at Grassy Park SAPS.”

Mr Jonkers said Sergeant van Schalkwyk appeared in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court, on Monday October 14 and was remanded on bail of R1 000. He appeared again on Friday October 18, on another charge.

Mr Jonkers said: “While the CPF believes in the doctrine of innocent until proven guilty, it finds such allegations extremely disconcerting. The CPF will call on the police department to suspend the member until the matter is settled. We are mindful of the power relationships between the police and community and it would therefore make no sense to have him at the police station with such a cloud hanging over him.”

Mr Jonkers said the CPF, “called upon police, people who are called to serve our community, to guard against situations that might give rise to such allegations. Police should always be aware of the power relationship that exists and take extra care to ensure that their actions are above reproach.”

He said this is not the first incident of this nature and there have been other misdemeanours by police officials for which some are serving jail terms.

“It is clear that the Grassy Park police service needs an urgent overhaul. The CPF suggested some remedial measures, especially in terms of sector policing and hopefully will be taken seriously,” Mr Jonkers said.

“We call on community leaders not to inflame the situation and respect due process.”

Sergeant van Schalkwyk will appear in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court on Thursday November 21 for Ms Adams’s case.

Southern Mail contacted Grassy Park police and station commander Colonel Dawood Laing said he would respond by Monday October 21, but there had been no response at the time of going to print.