Community Policing Forums (CPF) in some of the rural areas of the Eastern Cape are under siege, as stock theft, the rapid increase and use of firearms and substance abuse amongst young people are stretching them to the limit.
Problems with cooperation between the CPFs and the police add to the burden. One such area, where many of these issues are present, is Bhityi near Mthatha.
Just a year ago, a group of men, who were patrolling at night, were ambushed, a CPF member died that night, shot by criminals.
The village of Bhityi is under threat as social ills have taken over. Stock theft, murder and rape are prevalent in the area.
Last week, six people were attacked at a tavern in the Polela locality, leaving three died on the spot and a fourth in hospital.
CPF members in the area believe they have also become the target of criminals.
An anonymous CPF member says, “People are scared of being members of the CPF because they are often accused by the community of spying for the police. The police and CPF do work together but there are those police officers who do not know the work of the CPF because they don’t fully work with the CPF.”
Community Policing Forums in the Eastern Cape overwhelmed by crime:
Traditional leader Nkosi Bovulengwe Mtirara says the situation is out of hand and they have no legislative powers to deal with rising crime levels in their communities.
Mtirara says, “After our attempts we’ve managed to bring the unit that stayed at Mqhekezweni for almost six months, they managed to get plus 200 firearms. But what is surprising is that no one is being prosecuted for having an illegal firearm and ammunition.”
“As a result, the day they left, a woman was raped and killed. That is the challenge. There is no proper coordination between SAPS and the judiciary,” Mtirara added.
Due to the rising crime levels in the Bhityi area, a police station was established. Initially it serviced just over 2 000 households. Mtirara says the community is expanding, as a result the police station is not effective due to a lack of resources.
“The radius is almost 60 kilometres from one point to another point. The roads are bad. There’s no proper infrastructure. So that’s why you find out people are complaining about police who are coming late, police who are not responding the way they expect. So, we’ve been speaking to the government about upgrading the police station but it seems we are talking to deaf ears,” Mtirara says.
Meanwhile, police spokesperson Thembinkosi Kinana says there has been progress in policing the area.
Kinana says, “Whilst the SAPS understands the frustration of those communities as a result of criminal elements in those areas, we also need to appreciate the great work and the difference that our deployments have made in the area of Bhityi. The amount of confiscated firearms and arrests made, clearly indicates the level of seriousness given by the district and provincial management to the identified challenges. The existing CPF leadership can testify to these successes.”
The search for the suspects linked to the latest shooting is still ongoing. The police are also awaiting the results of ballistic tests done on firearms that were confiscated, as they may be linked to other crimes in the area. When these results are back, court cases will continue.
Author: Nomzwanele Mngoma