Police called to task

Protesters voice their disapproval of Grassy Park polices poor service delivery.

Screaming loud hailers and harping hooters filled the air as protesters accusing the Grassy Park police station of poor service came out in droves during a weekend march.

The Grassy Park Community Police Forum (CPF) and the neighbourhood watches of Lotus River and Grassy Park marched to the Grassy Park library, near the police station, on Saturday March 11, where they gave a memorandum to Community Safety MEC Dan Plato.

Mpumelelo Manci, who represented provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khombinkosi Jula.
The memorandum gave them 21 days to respond to the protesters’ demands, including the sacking of Grassy Park station commander Colonel Shawn van Wyk.

“Improve communication”, “Take domestic violence seriously”,“Respond when called”, and “SAPS must serve the community, not drug dealers”, were the messages on some of the placards.
CPF spokesman Philip Bam said: “We are supposed to march against drug lords and not against the police department’s slow response to the community. However, this has been going on for a very long time.”

He said the community called him frequently for help. “In the last week, we caught a suspect and after half an hour when the police didn’t come, I put the man with the stolen goods in my car and went to the police station. When I came to the station, there was no one to make an arrest.”

Incidents like this happened often, he said.

CPF chairman Fuad Titus said the police didn’t include the forum in meetings. “The police undermines the CPF because they have meetings but do not invite us. We have had cases, such as domestic violence and other issues, where the police did not respond.”

He said the CPF had reported 42 cases of police inefficiency to the ombudsman.

Riyaad Harris, chairman of Duiker Avenue Neighbourhood Watch in Lotus River, said they also had problems with the police.

“We will have a major follow up if there is no sufficient response from the authorities after 21 days. We will invite more areas to protest with us,” he said.

When the marchers got to the Grassy Park library, the memorandum was read out by CPF deputy chairman John Goss: “SAPS have failed miserably in their charter to serve and protect as evident by the many instances where the services of SAPS were required and they attended very late or never turned up at all or never satisfied the needs of the community.

“We believe that one of the reasons giving rise to poor service delivery, besides insufficient police officials and lack of hands-on management, is the low morale of the members and civilian staff at the police station due to the dictatorial type of management of the station commander Colonel Shawn van Wyk.”

The CPF also complained that it had not been consulted about the restructuring of police clusters, but it now had to bear the consequences of a “bad decision” as Grassy park officers were being drawn from the area to perform duties elsewhere, leaving the neighbourhood vulnerable.

The memorandum also said the distribution of new SAPS recruits in the cluster had not been done fairly with Grassy Park getting a raw deal. Replying to the protesters, Mr Plato said: “Station commanders are under a lot of pressure but they still have to perform. There are not enough resources and manpower available as three or four years ago there were no more reservists.”

General Manci said the protesters could expect a report back within 21 days.

Colonel Van Wyk told the Southern Mail he did not want to comment at this stage. “I will only respond after the investigation,” he said.

Meanwhile an opposition group disrupted the proceedings, saying that the CPF do not speak on behalf of all the community members as they are in full support of Colonel Van Wyk. See story on page 2.