Commander laments broken relations

Station Commander, Brigadier Cass Goolam, says his frequent suspensions has destroyed police relations with residents.

Mitchell’s Plain police station commander, Brigadier Cass Goolam, who requested to be transferred to the police’s provincial office, citing poor management of a disciplinary hearing against him, has not yet received a response from his superiors.

It has been more than a month since he submitted his request on Wednesday June 5. Speaking to the Plainsman on Thursday July 4, Brigadier Goolam confirmed he submitted a transfer request on Wednesday June 5 but did not want to comment on its content.

In response to a Plainsman media enquiry as to why it was taking so long for the brigadier to get a response, national police spokesperson, Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo, said: “This is an internal matter and will be dealt with as such.”

His statement was repeated by by Western Cape police spokesman, Captain Frederick van Wyk, who said matters between an employee and the employer were not disclosed. “It is deemed an internal affair,” he reiterated.

In January Brigadier Goolam was cleared of all charges against him pertaining to the disappearance of 15 state-issued 9mm pistols from Mitchell’s Plain police station in August 2017.

He and 13 other police officers had been suspended in 2017 for the disappearance of the 15 guns in September that same year.

Five of the 14 senior police officers were dismissed (“Suspended cops back on the beat,” Plainsman, November 29 2017) and two of the firearms were found in Manenberg in separate incidents – one on September 2 and the other in mid-October (“Gang crossfire claims yet another life”, Plainsman, October 25, 2017).

Captain Philani Nkwalase, spokesman for the Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation, also known as the Hawks, said Riedewaan Miller was arrested and found in possession of one of the guns on October 17 2017.

Mr Miller was found guilty on charges of theft, being in possession of a firearm and ammunition in Khayelitsha Regional Court on March 6 last year.

On the same day he was sentenced to a total of 16 years imprisonment, three of which were suspended for five years, on condition that he is not convicted of contravening the Firearms Control Act.

Captain Nkwalase said no other arrests were made and that the investigation was ongoing.

Earlier this month, activist and former police reservist, Colin Arendse, tipped the media off about Brigadier Goolam’s transfer request.

Mr Arendse said the disciplinary hearing was a travesty of justice, the investigation false and that charges against the brigadier were fake.

He said Brigadier Goolam had been instructed by his superiors to store the guns that went missing at Mitchells Plain police station.

The guns were being used by SAPS’ Stability Unit and were not part of the station’s gun complement.

In April Mr Arendse filed an affidavit with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), to investigate the loss and theft of the guns.

The docket has since been transferred to SAPS for further criminal investigation.

Brigadier Goolam said in recent weeks he had had to repair relationships between the police and the community and among his staff to rebuild their trust.

“Whenever there is a change in management it affects the community,” he said. “There were strong partnerships in Mitchell’s Plain but this debacle has put us on the back foot,” he said.

He said fighting crime was all about partnership and that his absence from the station had led to the disintegration of relations between the station and its partners, the station commander and the community structures, as well as disintegration of structures and community police forum (CPF) sub-structures.

Brigadier Goolam said some of the crime hot spots had been under siege by gangsters.

“We’ll be rolling out meetings and together we will be taking the battle to the streets,” he said. “Our community needs to be liberated jointly by SAPS and the community,” he said.

He said in recent weeks crime had stabilised and that there had been a drop in serious crimes.

“There have been quite a few Prevention of Organised Crime Act (POCA) arrests and they (perpetrators) are going in for a long time,” he said.

There has been a focus on the financial proceeds of crime, specifically asset forfeiture.

Brigadier Goolam said there was a backlog of criminal cases at the court and that several criminals from Mitchell’s Plain were in Pollsmoor Prison.

Asked what impact his transfer would have on the police station and its crime-fighting operations, Brigadier Goolam said if his transfer was approved there were competent people at the station who could carry out strategies and operational methodologies to combat crime.

Abie Isaacs, Mitchell’s Plain CPF chairman, said since the beginning they’d been vocal about the station commander’s innocence.

He said since February they had had to rebuild their working relationship, which had been strained during Brigadier Goolam’s suspension and even when he was in office he could not do what he needed to focus on.

“He was put under a microscope and had to focus on administrative matters, rather than operation matters,” he said.

Mr Isaacs said this was not conducive to them working with the police.

“We used to be the best station in terms of relationships between the police and the community. And it works, we feed off each other,” he said.