Crime fighters in Nyanga have expressed their concerns about the conditions under which local police have to work. This is after a Zwelitsha resident went on the rampage, on Friday February 19, damaging a number of vehicles.
At least 10 vehicles were damaged, eight of which belonged to the police and two of which were privately-owned. The resident punctured the tyres of the cars which were parked at the police station, but was arrested soon after wounding a police officer.
A visibly horrified and saddened Community Police Forum (CPF) chairperson, Martin Makasi, said urgent discussions with authorities were needed, accusing them also of failing to support Nyanga SAPS in their efforts to fight crime. He said any deliberate damage to police vehicles was a worry.
Mr Makasi bemoaned the lack of a secured parking area for police, adding that the damage caused to vehicles impacted negatively on service delivery for the entire weekend.
“Summons and protection orders can’t be delivered (until the cars are repaired), and child maintenance defaulters are much relaxed this weekend. They will probably relax for the whole of this week because there are no cars. This (secured parking) is a problem we once addressed. We were anticipating such things. At this station we have a challenge of people that sleep here. This is a big problem.”
Mr Makasi said the man who was arrested was likely one of those who slept at the police station.
He said while police are expected to deliver a good service, they need to be protected and be provided with better working conditions.
Mr Makasi also lashed out at parents who refuse to take responsibility for their children and family members.
“Most people who sleep here are known by their family members. They should be responsible for them. Those who sleep here see the station as their last resort. Had police done something to the man, the same people would be gunning for the police, making wild allegations and accusations. The Independent Police Investigative Directorate would be the first to run here. It should not be like that,” he said.
Lindile Stoto, whose car was among those damaged, partly blamed the police for responding late. He said police were immediately informed when the man started puncturing the tyres but ran away.
“When people reported police ran away instead of acting. One told me they were fetching guns in the safe. That man was busy punching the wheels.
“He nearly stabbed me. I realised later that he was mentally disturbed. But most of the damage could have been avoided,” he said.
Mr Stoto was at the station to bail out his brother-in-law, whose car had to remain in the parking lot for that day.
“I missed work and had to fix his car. I work weekends and now I could not. This has derailed me big time,” Mr Stoto said.
Police spokeswoman Captain Ntomboxolo Sitshitshi said a 19-year-old man was arrested in connection with the incident. She said a police officer had heard a loud hissing noise, and when he went to investigate he found the man puncturing the tyres.
“When the suspect was confronted, he pulled out a knife and threatened to stab the member if he came closer to him. The suspect was overpowered by the member but the member was slightly injured during the struggle.
“However, the suspect was ultimately arrested and was charged with malicious damage to property,” she said.
Captain Sitshitshi said the incident hampered service delivery. She added that it was hard to remove those who sleep at the police station but they will make sure no one sleeps there again.
“They are very aggressive. We have made means to take them back to their homes but they kept coming back,” she said.