Last week, a policeman was axed during a protest in Zwelihle, Hermanus. It is alleged that demonstrators turned on the officer when police would not release a community leader who was arrested. The policeman’s firearm was also stolen during the incident.
Protesters say that police have been entering their homes and beating them up.
Police Minister Bheki Cele visited the area on Tuesday and addressed residents about their grievances against police officers’ brutality. He told that the heavy police presence would not be withdrawn until the axed police officer’s firearm was found.
He added that the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) has been engaged to investigate the allegations of police brutality.
“I’m so keen to take the police away and send them where there is serious criminality,” Cele said.
Community leaders handed him a memorandum with a list of their demands, including the release of community leader Gcobani Ndzongana.
Ndzongana was arrested with another community leader, Theron Mqhu, who face charges ranging from incitement to attempted murder.
Cele emphasised that he was only signing the document to acknowledge receiving it, and not agreeing to the demands.
“I’m not going to be minister of police and defeat the ends of justice,” he said.”Just imagine the minister of police leading the campaign to release people who were arrested.”
This received mixed responses from the residents, as some were happy that Cele signed the document, but were unhappy that their demands were not met.
Initially, protests within the community began in March as backyard-dwellers demanded land for housing and began demarcating municipal land. Residents also complained about alleged corruption in the government housing processes.
The unrest died down after a private plot of land was pegged by government as a spot to build dwellings, but flared up yet again after the arrest of community leaders.