Police minister‚ Bheki Cele has expressed concern over allegations that the Zandspruit community chose to take the law into their own hands and burn to death suspected criminals in the area because police did not respond to crime calls.
In a statement‚ Cele’s office said the claims that the community’s distress calls were ignored would be “urgently investigated.”
Nine men were set alight at the informal settlement on Wednesday‚ allegedly by community members who claimed they were criminals. Five died on the scene while three others have since died in hospital‚ putting the death toll at eight.
Cele and the province’s community safety MEC‚ Faith Mazibuko‚ visited the troubled informal settlement on Saturday where the damning claims were made by community members. They met with them at the same sports grounds where the nine youngsters were rounded up‚ beaten and set alight.
“Minister Cele also had an engagement with community leadership structures to find out what could have led this community into taking the law into their own hands. This meeting saw representatives of the local CPF and other recognised community safety structures‚ expressing the residents’ policing and safety concerns‚” read a statement from Cele’s office.
“They also reported to the police minister and the provincial police team that the Honeydew police station‚ which also serves the Zandspruit area‚ provides poor service to the community. They claim the local police are not only corrupt but at times ignore their policing needs. Some in the meeting believe the death of the youngsters‚ who were severely assaulted and burnt‚ could have been avoided if police responded on time‚” the statement continues.
Cele responded to their complaints‚ saying he believed the community deserved improved service delivery.
He said he would seek to find out why police took that long to respond to Zandspruit on the day of the killings and said “heads would roll” if police were found to have been slack.
“There is no doubt police in this area have many challenges due to the ever increasing population size and poor living conditions that impede on crime fighting efforts‚ however some of the problems faced by the police are self-made‚” Cele said.
“It’s really disheartening to hear that calls were made to the police while the youngsters were still alive but yet police vans took hours to respond‚ so that’s why I have tasked the provincial commissioner to get to the bottom of these claims and I expect answers in the coming days‚” he added.
Gauteng police spokesperson Kay Makhubele‚ however‚ said they had a plausible explanation for not making it to the scene in time.
Speaking to the SABC‚ he said a police van called to the scene was stoned and chased away by a mob of about 200 people.
“They cannot give excuses of killing people because police are not responding‚” he said.
Meanwhile‚ Cele has ordered the establishment of a task team to look into problems at the Honeydew police station‚ which services the informal settlement. He said it would also look at cold cases from the station which have dragged on with no conclusion.
Cele told the community he would be back in less than a month to provide them with feedback.
Source: ARENA Holdings.