News / South Africa

Makhosandile Zulu
3 minute read
4 Oct 2018
10:55 am

TRT deployed to ‘flush out’ criminals in Westbury – Cele

Makhosandile Zulu

The response team is one of several interventions announced by the police minister on Tuesday.

Minister of Police Bheki Cele during a press briefing on the presidential proclamation authorising SIU to investigate corruption allegations against the office of the State Attorney at the GCIS Pressroom, 14 August 2018, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

With almost more than 15 people murdered in Westbury this financial year so far, 33 last year and 36 in 2016, Police Minister Bheki Cele vowed to “flush out” criminals in the area by introducing a tactical response team (TRT)  dedicated to the area’s policing precinct.

On Thursday, Cele introduced the TRT which will be, according to a statement by the South African Police Service (SAPS), “permanently deployed” to the area.

It was the minister’s return visit in the area following violent and destructive protests sparked by the killing of a 41-year-old woman last week.

On Tuesday, Cele was in Westbury to hear the community’s concerns about the high prevalence of drugs, gang-related violence, and corrupt police officers who are allegedly bribed to turn a blind eye to criminal activity.

“We are bringing these police to defend this community. We are bringing these officers here to arrest criminals,” Cele said, addressing a crowd of Westbury residents at the local sports ground.

The minister urged the police to work with the community when it comes to addressing crime in the area.

“We are here to protect them. We are here to arrest the drug lords. We are here to arrest the murderers. We are here to arrest the thieves. We are here to arrest the rapists, but please protect the community,” Cele told police officers.

A list of 20 most-wanted suspects in the Westbury area has been drawn up by the police, the minister said, adding that the list will be prioritised.

A special team of 143 police officers had been created to bring stability to the area, the minister said. However, he said 10 of these officers would work undercover collecting crucial information to assist with identifying criminals in the area.

“Criminals will no longer have space in this community… We will squeeze them until they get out of this community and go to prison,” Cele said.

The minister said the TRT would work closely with the Metro Police, dog unit, and national intervention unit, and that these officers would be armed to the teeth to address the scourge of crime in the area. He added that there will be visible policing in the area.

Cele said he does not expect animosity and clashes between police units and the community. He urged the community to work with the police and provide the units with leads.

Another intervention, Cele said, involves engaging the minister of justice to assign prosecutors dedicated to working on cases emanating from the area and who would ensure that criminals are speedily prosecuted and jailed.

Furthermore, the minister of justice should work with the community to establish a functional witness protection programme to ensure witnesses’ safety so that could then testify at court proceedings without fear.

Cele said other ministers are also being engaged so that an inter-ministerial task team can look at how to address issues such as housing and unemployment, among other challenges in the area.

“Give us the names of the corrupt officials. We want the names of the officials that take bribes from the criminals because corruption makes the community suffer,” Cele said.

The minister said the protection of children in the area should be a priority, calling on drug lords to stay away from the local children.

Meanwhile, the Citizen reported that plans for a province-wide shutdown today by residents identifying as coloured communities were well underway in Johannesburg and Tshwane.

During Cele’s visit to Westbury on Tuesday, a resident of the area urged the coloured community to vote for political parties that listen to the community’s concerns because for too long the community had been marginalised and used as voting fodder.

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