The arrest of a neighbourhood watch member accused of being part of a group of patrollers who allegedly beat up two suspects in Site B, Khayelitsha on Sunday, prompted about 100 residents to march to police station on Tuesday night demanding his release.
The two men who were allegedly assaulted on Sunday opened cases against five members of the informal neighbourhood watch, resulting the arrest of one person on Tuesday.
However, residents argue police had no right to arrest the man as he was but one of 70 neighbourhood watch patrollers in what is called the Mayitshe Group.
Residents called an urgent meeting on Tuesday evening where they decided to march to the Khayelitsha police station.
About five van and two flying squad cars from various policing areas were called to disperse the angry crowd who entered the police station.
The residents accused the police of acting fast when criminals open a case but were slow in responding to incidents of robbery.
“They only professional in theory but in practice they’re very poor,” one resident shouted.
Community leader Thando Mpengesi said residents demanded the release of the Mayitshe Group patroller.
“We’ve been in this police station so many times bringing drug dealers and skollies but police failed to arrest those people. The last time we came here with drug dealers police said we must leave them here, they’re going to arrest them, but that never happened. They lied to us. Now when a criminal opens a case, they act fast. Police fail to patrol our area and now when we do it they arrest us,” said Mpengesi.
Mayitshe Group member Sonwabile Pakade said when residents decided to form Mayitshe they informed the police station and had several meetings with a sector commander who promised to train them, but that never happened.
“We could not wait any longer because people were attacked by criminals. We had a meeting as residents, we agreed on forming iMayitshe,” said Pakade.
He said group members started patrolling at 10pm to ensure residents were safe.
From midnight, no-one was expected to be on the streets unless they were returning from work.
He said when two men were found near a shebeen during the early hours of Sunday, patrollers questioned them.
“We told them to home but they refused, threatening us, swearing.”
He said one of the men said he had a gun and would shoot.
“That was when they were beaten.”
He said the pair were then handed over to the police.
He said police had no right to arrest Mayitshe members as they were merely doing the job police failed to do.
Following a meeting with community leaders, the man, together with three protesters who were arrested when they invaded the police station, were released.
Provincial police spokesperson Frederick Van Wyk confirmed the incident.
Van Wyk said they were released with a warning to appear in court and a meeting was held to discuss the way patrollers should go about their duties.
The four will appear in the Khayelitsha Magistrate court on July 31 on charges of assault. – Nombulelo Damba