Grassy Park Community Police Forum (CPF) and some neighbourhood watches have welcomed the redeployment of the “problematic” station commander Colonel Shawn van Wyk.
According to provincial police, Colonel Van Wyk was placed at the Mitchell’s Plain cluster office from Tuesday August 1 “to improve cluster crime perspective” but the CPF believes he was removed due to the way he managed the station.
Philip Bam, spokesperson for the Grassy Park CPF, said this move marked a new beginning at Grassy Park.
Mr Bam said the CPF had not happy with Colonel Van Wyk’s management style, as well as many other issues such as the alleged lack of service delivery.
In March, the CPF and some neighbourhood watches held a protest march during which decided to take action by protesting at a march on Saturday March 11 a memorandum was handed over to Community Safety MEC Dan Plato and Major-General Mpumelelo Manci, who represented provincial police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khombinkosi Jula (“Police called to task”, Southern Mail, Wednesday March 15).”
However, a few days before the march, on Thursday March 9, some opposition community members disagreed and rallied behind Colonel Van Wyk (“Opposition group backs police head”, Southern Mail, March 15).
Community leaders from Parkwood, Ottery, Pelican Park and Lotus River stood in support of Colonel Van Wyk.
At the time, Voice of Parkwood chairperson Pastor Paul Phillips claimed the community did not agree with the CPF’s accusations against the station commander.
“In principle we agree on concerns raised by the CPF and the need for a judicial commission of inquiry into operations at the Grassy Park police station. He agreed that the issue of safety and security was a huge concern.
“However, Colonel van Wyk cannot be made a scapegoat to the issues of service delivery and other gripes at the station. He has only been at the station for three years, whereas the station has a history of being dysfunctional years before he came to the station.”
However, Mr Bam disagreed. “We look forward to welcoming the new station commander. He however, reported ill and has not yet taken up the position.
Chairperson John Bailey said the removal of Colonel Van Wyk is a step backwards for the communities the station served.
“Placing a vote of no confidence and asking a man to step down who had the best interest of the community at heart and who was trying to make a difference doesn’t make sense. He made good changes. He cleaned house at Grassy Park police station and was met with hostility and allegations were laid against him because he was strict and had a no nonsense approach.
Mr Bailey added: “The CPF is supposed to be a bridge between the community and the police, and unfortunately this is not the case. The Grassy Park CPF is not the police. Leave policing to the police”.
Mr Bam said: “The CPF will work with the new station commander to ensure that the objectives of the community safety plan are achieved.
“We appeal to those who were misled into negativity by the shenanigans of the erstwhile commander to reassess their position and cooperate with the elected leadership of the CPF.
“There is much anti-crime work to be undertaken and we need every citizen to support initiatives to make Grassy Park a safer place for all especially our senior citizens, women and children,” said Mr Bam.
Riyaad Harris, chairperson of the Duiker Avenue Neighbourhood Watch, in Lotus River, said: “Our march has been a successful one as the first and main objective was answered – the colonel was transferred. We look forward to meeting the new colonel and also working with him.”
Mr Bam said: “The CPF will be presenting the final draft of the Grassy Park community safety plan on (August 8) and will workshop it with the new station commander who has not been part of the process.
“The CPF is actively engaged in assisting with accreditation of neighbourhood watches and wants to make sure that neighbourhood watches act in accordance with their mandates. We will encourage all neighbourhood watches to respect the dignity of people on the street and while some have been accused of violating the rights of citizens, we will continue to make it clear that the CPF will not tolerate excessive force by neighbourhood watch members. We will discuss our liaison protocols with the new (station commander) and start of on a better footing. We look forward to fulfilling our mandate and together build a better relationship between our community and SAPS”
Colonel Van Wyk said he was saddened that he had to leave.
“Over the three years I have been station commander at Grassy Park police, I had a good relationship with those in the greater Grassy Park area. I am saddened that those relationships are now broken,” he said.
Asked why he was moved and if the memorandum by the CPF was part of the reason he was moved, he said: “It has nothing to do with the CPF. They cannot make such decisions. It’s just one of those things management decided on, to move me around for strategic reasons,” he said.
He commended those in the community who worked hard and made effective changes.
“I will miss the wonderful people at Grassy Park station and the community and I salute those, especially those neighbourhood watches who play a big role in reducing crime in their respective areas,” he said.
Colonel Van Wyk said he would be overseeing stations in the cluster and would have contact with Grassy Park from time to time.