New Western Cape police commissioner to sort out old problems

A province riddled with violent crime and gangsterism has a new sheriff after Police Minister Bheki Cele approved the appointment of Thembisile Patekile as police commissioner in the Western Cape.

Patekile is not new to the Western Cape, having been acting commissioner since February after also filling the role in 2016.

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde, deputy national police commissioner Sindile Mfazi and MEC for community safety Albert Fritz welcomed the new commissioner on Friday, 2 July. 

Patekile was chosen for the position out of six applicants, who all “reflected the diversity of the province”, said Mfazi.

Patekile said the police service was dealing in a “very systematic way” with contact crime in hot spots. Eight police stations had been identified in areas that accounted for 45% of the province’s contact crime such as murder, gender-based violence, armed robberies and hijacking.

“We are stabilising this, we are in this space where we are conducting in a very systematic way deployment to hotspot areas, [and] at the same time making sure to invite the community to take part,” Patekile said, adding that the force was aiming for the “top guys”, a reference to crime syndicates. 

“We are going more on that route to take the entire enterprise down. They are keeping us busy with the guys on the floor, so we [have to] take out the top guys,” he said.

In response to a question about new measures to combat gangsterism, Patekile said it must be approached differently from the past.

“Whatever we do, we must make sure we do not advertise them [gangs] to be [more] important than the government. It is a big thing, they have their own alternative governance we need to dismantle,” he said.

Winde said the partnership between the police and the province was critical to ensuring the safety of residents. “We’ve got to get that partnership right, we’ve got to get that stability right.” 

He reiterated the need to “start removing those causes of crime and violence that affect the citizens in our province”. 

Mfazi confirmed that there would be “interaction between the provincial government in terms of dealing with the problems”.

He said Patekile had presented an intervention plan to police management “that is really important for the province in terms of stabilising the environment”.

Patekile’s appointment comes at a time of instability in the police force following the axing of the province’s head of detectives, Jeremy Vearey, in May. 

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) has lodged a dispute regarding this matter at the Safety and Security Sectoral Bargaining Council, which will be heard on 28 and 29 July.

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Eunice Stoltz
Eunice Stoltz is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian.

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