Everyone agrees that Vrygrond needs a police station. But nothing happens

Activists want to know why they don’t have a station when a R100 million proposal to revamp Muizenberg police station was abandoned

By Tariro Washinyira

6 September 2021

Photo of a police station window

The City of Cape Town, the ward councillors, the community policing forum, SAPS, community leaders and activists all want a police station built for Vrygrond, but years go by with no progress. “It’s on the priority list of stations scheduled to be built,” says SAPS. Archive photo: Ashraf Hendricks

For over a decade, Cape Town communities around Vrygrond have been campaigning for a police station closer to Capricorn, Seawind and Overcome. Their nearest stations are in Muizenberg and Retreat. Community leaders say many cases go unreported because the stations are too far away.

Instead, in 2016 plans were revealed to revamp the Muizenberg police station for R100 million.

The Social Justice Network (SJN) objected and succeeded in halting the renovations.

SJN secretary Lathif Abdool Gafoor said the station was built during apartheid to serve a small white community. He said a new police station in Vrygrond would serve people from poor communities.

A satellite police station was set up on the M5, but it failed to combat crime and gangsterism in Vrygrond. “It got vandalised and eventually abandoned,” said Gafoor.

He said what the community needs is a fully fledged police station with magistrate courts and holding cells in Vrygrond. They had brought this demand in 2019 to the attention of the ministry of police and the provincial commissioner. SJN received acknowledgement of this memorandum from the Divisional Commissioner Supply Chain Management in Pretoria.

“But since Covid-19, I have been finding it hard to get my calls answered,” said Gafoor.

Gafoor says land on the corner of Prince George and Vrygrond Avenue was set aside in 2010 by the City of Cape Town, but the Department of Public Works and SAPS have taken it no further.

SJN chairperson Linamandla Deliwe said the draft proposal for the new police station was less than the R100 million allocated for the Muizenberg renovation.

“The community still has questions pertaining to what happened to money allocated to Muizenberg refurbishment, and why public views were not taken into consideration?” said Deliwe.

He said people in the more affluent areas, such as Marina Da Gama and Muizenberg, use private security companies and have cars to drive to the police station. But “If aunt Sara is mugged in Vrygrond, she will walk to the police station and get robbed several times before she reaches the police station”, he said.

Western Cape police spokesperson Brigadier Novela Potelwa said a Vrygrond police station is on the priority list. But, she could not say when construction would begin.

Councillor Felicity Purchase (DA) also support a new station. “Muizenberg SAPS needed repairs and maintenance, but was not appropriate for the extensive work they proposed, which would have required the excavation of a large portion of the mountainside,” said Purchase. “Starting on a level site [like Vrygrond] would be more practical, cheaper, and allow for the Court building too … The Muizenberg Community Policing Forum and other community leaders supported us in this position.”

City of Cape Town spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said land had been made available “years ago for a police station”. The site might now go to an Early Childhood Development Centre.

Thamsanqa Mchunu, spokesperson at the Department of Public Works, said, “At the request of SAPS, the project for repairs and upgrading of Muizenberg SAPS station complex was deactivated in 2017.”

Mchunu said it is up to SAPS through its own internal processes to give procurement instructions, together with budgets, to Public Works, to start construction of new police stations.

An amount of R100 million was therefore “never allocated to the project” by Public Works. Furthermore: “Funds are only allocated to projects for construction once the cost of construction or development is established and also, the funds are not allocated at once but over a period of financial years.”

GroundView: Private security for the middle class. Nothing for poor people.
By GroundUp Editors
The activists are quite right that in Cape Town’s south peninsula, as in much of South Africa, middle class people protect themselves by hiring private security companies. This is entirely understandable. Speak to residents in the area or follow their WhatsApp groups and it is apparent that neighbourhood watches and private security are doing a far better job of preventing and responding to crime than SAPS. There is a lack of confidence in the police who are perceived, in large part, as corrupt, lazy and incompetent.
As with the breakdown of many public services in South Africa, it is poor working class communities, in this case those who cannot afford private security, that suffer. This almost inevitably leads to protests and vigilantism.