Residents take to streets in anger over closure of police station
Chaos erupted in Walmer township yesterday as thousands of residents took to the streets, throwing stones and burning tyres as they demanded that the satellite police station in the area reopen.
Police responded by firing rubber bullets and teargas. Four people were taken into custody for public violence following a running battle between residents and police.
Ntomboxolo Mkhize, 38, said Walmer residents were perturbed by a lack of service delivery which included the closure of the police station in Fountain Road.
“We initially thought the closure was as a result of construction work on the road.
“The work was completed months ago and yet we have no police station.
“Whenever residents are attacked, they are forced to walk several kilometres to report crime to the Walmer Main Road police station at night. We want our station reopened,” Mkhize said.
Thandi Dyosi, 51, said: “Prior to the closure, officers would lock the doors and sleep inside – they refused to open for residents to report a crime.
“The councillor even offered the police space in his office but they didn’t want it.
“Crime is very high here and we cannot do without a police station.
“Secondly, we are concerned about the issue at the Walmer Clinic which only opens at 9am and closes its doors an hour later. Residents are forced to go home without medication,” Dyosi said.
Yesterday, by 10am, more than 1 000 protesters had gathered and blocked off the roads between 9th Avenue and Heugh Road with burning tyres.
Nine months ago, police management decided to close the contact point in Fountain Road, Walmer, because the building was dilapidated and could not be used.
Police spokeswoman Priscilla Naidu said the building was in a bad state, pipes had been taken out and the water shut off.
She said SAPS members could not work in that condition so the decision to shut the station had been made.
The building belongs to the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, which has a lease agreement with the Department of Public Works. It in turn leases the building to the South African Police Service.
Municipal spokesman Kupido Baron said they had only become aware of the poor state of the building when they contacted Public Works a few months ago on the renewal of the lease agreement.
“We were then told this would only be considered if the building was repaired. An inspection by our facilities department will be conducted as soon as possible.”
Public Works could not be reached for comment.
In what resembled a war zone yesterday, residents engaged in a running battle with police. Stones were thrown at officers who responded with rubber bullets and teargas.
Earlier, a meeting was held between community leaders, ward councillor Ayanda Tyokwana and police management.
Tyokwana later informed the angry residents that an agreement had been reached and the police would use his office for their duties.
“As a temporary measure, two officers will start their night shift [yesterday] and will use the office.
“It has also been agreed that the comrades who have be arrested will also been released from the holding cells,” he said referring to the four people arrested for public violence.
Naidu said SAPS Walmer police management and councillors from the area had held a meeting and it was agreed an office at the councillor’s building would be made available.
This came as a relief and the crowd began to disperse until they heard the four who had been arrested would not be released, despite the councillor’s assurances.
The protesters regrouped, more tyres were burnt and stones were again thrown.
“We are now heading to Main Road, Walmer police station. We want our comrades released,” a community leader said.
It was at this stage that a second round of rubber bullets and teargas filled the air and the group scattered in all directions.
Community leader Vuyo Popo said there was jubilation when the four were eventually released from the police holding cells.
Naidu said: “The station commander of Walmer, Colonel Jakob Flemmer, has assured the community that service delivery will not be hampered and that the people of Walmer location will be policed.”