Government intervenes in Westbury unrest


Police Minister Bheki Cele has tasked Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole with investigating alleged corruption and misconduct at the Sophiatown Police Station, which services the violence ridden Westbury.

The intervention was just one of several announced by Cele during a community meeting at a local sportsground on Tuesday, amid protests. Since Thursday, angry residents have taken to the streets, blockading roads, burning tyres and littering, complaining of escalating levels of gangster wars and drug peddling.

Cele was accompanied by Sitole, Gauteng Community Safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane, Member of Parliament Vincent Smith and City of Joburg Community Safety MMC Michael Sun, among others.

The investigation into alleged police misconduct will be completed in seven days.
“The National Commissioner will as from today institute an investigation into the behaviour of the station. The results of the probe will be released in a week,” Cele said.

The probe will establish if, as alleged, police were involved in corrupt activities.
“Sometimes they are [allegedly] in cohorts with the drug lords [and the] issue of station management at times were not cooperating with the community. Police will investigate those accused of being corrupt. We’ll work with you so we can immediately act,” he said.

He conceded that the community had every right to voice concerns. However, he warned that this did not mean they had to be violent while doing so.
“The right they do not have is to be violent as they do that. To say we’ve waited for the community to rise before coming here is not true,” he said.

During the engagement, the community requested that the police deploy a Tactical Response Team Unit. The police have obliged to the plea, Cele announced to loud cheers.
“That unit will be here from today. They join a team of 20 already in the area to patrol the streets.”

In 24 hours, Cele said, another police unit working on drug trade allegations would be announced.

Regarding impassioned pleas for the release of community members arrested during the violent clashes with police, Cele said the matter was beyond the control of the police.
“Bail is a question of the justice department, I don’t want to lie to you and say it will happen and it doesn’t. What we will do is, I will speak to [Justice] Minister [Michael] Masutha that you have made this request. Secondly, I’ll urge him to come with me so we can address these matters,” he said.

Cele said he and other relevant departments would be back in the area next week to deal with all matters raised.