It is not too late to turn the tide against gangsterism, Mitchell’s Plain police chief Brigadier Jan Alexander told a prayer march in Beacon Valley on Sunday, following protests and calls for his suspension in response to the fatal shooting of a schoolgirl and the appearance in court of a policeman accused of stealing guns.
“We must stand together, reach other to each other and not tolerate any crime from any nature. Stand united against gangsterism and drugs,” he said.
Community police forums, neighbourhood watches, street committees and community-based organisations were just some of the groups the public could join to aid the fight against crime, he said.
Sunday’s prayer march, which was organised by the Leon Jacobs Foundation, showed support for Tiyana van Rooyen, the 13-year-old girl who survived being shot in the head during a gang-related shooting in Beacon Valley last year (“Tiyana, 13, survives bullet to the head,” Plainsman, August 20, 2023), and it also followed the appearances in the Mitchell’s Plain Magistrate’s Court, last Friday, of a man accused of killing Beacon Valley primary school pupil Firdous Kleinsmidt, 12, and of a police officer accused of stealing 15 guns and weapons over a six-month period last year.
The appearances sparked a protest by DA and National Coloured Congress (NCC) members outside the Mitchell’s Plain police station on the same day.
Firdous, a Grade 7 pupil at Ieglaasi Nieyah Primary School, was hit by a stray bullet on Tuesday January 30. She had been about to leave school early in response to an alert about gang shooting in the area when she died (“Girl, 12, killed by stray bullet,” Plainsman, January 31).
The Cape Flats Safety Forum (CFSF) has demanded answers regarding the disappearance of the guns and ammunition. They protested outside of the police station on Wednesday January 31, and just a day earlier, forum secretary Lynn Philips, standing outside the school where Firdous had died the day before, sounded a call for the police station to be placed under administration until every missing gun had been retrieved.
Ms Philips has also called for the Mitchell’s Plain CPF to be dissolved for failing to alert the community to the disappearance of the guns and ammunition in the first place.
The forum wants Brigadier Alexander and his management team to be suspended without pay. They say a precedent was set in 2017 when then station commander Brigadier Cass Goolam was suspended after an internal audit reported that 15 state-issued firearms went missing from the police station in August 2017.
About two months later, Brigadier Goolam and 13 other Mitchell’s Plain police officers resumed their duties.
“As community members, we need answers pertaining to this matter, as too many of our young people are dying via a gun, and blood is flowing in our streets daily,” Ms Philips said.
CPF chairman Norman Jantjes, in a written response to the DA and CFSF, rejected what he called their “arbitrary targeting” and claimed the DA’s memorandum was a “copy and paste” version of the one submitted by the CFSF.
“It is important to point out that certain members of the leadership of the CFSF were in senior positions of the Mitchell’s Plain CPF for more than 12 years, including 2017, when firearms disappeared at the Mitchell’s Plain police station, and there was no record that they then communicated to the community as they now claim this CPF should have done,” he said.
Furthermore, he said, the provincial Department of Police Oversight and Community Safety, under a DA administration, had weekly meetings with the Western Cape SAPS where all serious criminal activity was discussed and so would, as a matter of course, have been privy to the “missing firearms” matter long before any other structure, including the local CPF.
“We call on the premier and the mayor to join the CPF, the neighbourhood watch and other community organisations to make Mitchell’s Plain a safer place, and we will be more than happy to engage these structures in advancing this purpose,” said the CPF statement.