Imbizo tackles mob justice in Tafelsig

Caroline Witbooi, from Eastridge Neighbourhood Watch, speaks to Andile Manunga and Raeesa Mookrey, from Ottery Fire Station.

In an effort to curb mob justice, the Mitchell’s Plain Impact Association (MPIA) called an imbizo last week.

Representatives from the police, fire and rescue, ambulance services, the departments of justice and social development attended the event at the Nelson Mandela Youth and Family Centre, in Tafelsig.

The imbizo started more than an hour late to have more community representatives attend.

The meeting comes after two men in separate incidents were attacked for allegedly raping young girls.

On Friday January 5, a man was attacked in Tottenham Street in Freedom Park for allegedly raping a 9-year-old girl (“Rape accused beaten”, Plainsman, January 10).

Another man was attacked for allegedly committing a rape in Tafelsig on Friday December 1.

Joanie Fredericks, chairperson of the MPIA, said a platform was needed for the community to come together and start talking to each other.

“There has been an escalation in the amount of rape and sexual violence in our community but these mob justice attacks must stop,” she said.

Ms Fredericks said the community cannot choose when they want to exercise democracy.

“We cannot want to call on the police and emergency services to come out to help us when we need them but we stone them when they attend to a crime scene and want to protect the rights of a possible criminal,” she said.

“There is no place for mob justice and kangaroo courts in our community,” she said.

Ms Fredericks said the public cannot take the law into their own hands.

She said it needed to be dealt with by the authorities, including the police and the courts, which are constituted to protect and serve all of the country’s citizens.

Mishqah Keraan, a community worker from Tafelsig, said whenever the police raid houses, they either find nothing or the accused are released on bail at night court.

“The big bosses, the merchants, just swing their money and the docket disappears and the culprit is released,” she said.

Ms Keraan said the minute the culprit is released the crime is committed again.

Mitchell’s Plain police station commander, Brigadier Cass Goolam, responded to her saying that all dockets are electronically scanned and saved so if the hard copy disappears it is still on record.

Brigadier Goolam said the accused has the right to a speedy trial; the merits of the case is discussed with the prosecutor; and the possibility of the accused absconding is taken into account when deciding whether bail is granted.

Kenneth Petersen, 60, from Tafelsig, called on the police to intervene, where under-aged children were being used to carry guns and drugs for gang leaders and drug dealers.

According to the constitution, children younger than 10 lack criminal capacity and may not be arrested for committing an offence.

Such children will be referred to the Children’s Courts or to the Department of Social Development.

Children aged between 11 and 14 have criminal capacity and the onus to prove criminal capacity rests with the State.

Children older than 14 have criminal capacity unless otherwise proven.

Brigadier Goolam said his hands were tied in this respect and that parents were preventing the police from intervening.

“The drug merchants and gangster leaders that utilise our children to carry guns and drugs that is the status quo currently,” he said.

He called on parents to stand up against their children even at the “loss of your child”.

He said in some cases parents were also benefiting from their children’s illegal activities.

“I don’t believe there is such poverty in Mitchell’s Plain that you can sell your child,” he said.

Jakob van Zyl, southern district manager for Metro emergency medical services (EMS), called on the community to work with them, rather than rob and endanger the lives of his staff.

“Look after us by making sure we are treated with respect and allow us to do our job,” he said.

He said citizens had the right to be seen by a paramedic within 15 minutes of logging a call but that this is not possible in Tafelsig.

“We have to go to the police, who may be attending to another scene and then the patient dies while waiting,” he said.

Mr Van Zyl said some of his staff were attacked while attending to patients.

He said families of the perpetrators destroyed evidence at crime scenes before the police arrive.

Diana Maloy, from Tafelsig, told the imbizo that she had helped police officers after their colleagues drove off, while attending to a scene where a man was attacked.

She also shared information about drug dealers shaking hands with the police, who left with money in return for drugs not being found during searches.

Brigadier Goolam said he could not share exactly what was being done but that the police were addressing it.