City of Cape Town to launch new unit to protect workers in Philippi

Reward offered for information leading to arrests of anyone targeting City staff

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The City of Cape Town is to launch a Facility Protection Unit to escort workers in areas deemed to be crime hot spots. It has been using law enforcement officers and private security to escort workers in Philippi. Photos: Sandiso Phaliso

  • The City of Cape Town has been using private security and its own law enforcement officers to escort workers into Philippi.
  • This follows another attack where a team from the City’s energy department were shot at while working in Crossroads on Friday.

The City of Cape Town is to launch a Facility Protection Unit to escort workers in areas deemed to be crime hot spots, particularly in Philippi.

City employees and contractors have been affected by crime with a worker shot dead and workers from refuse collection contractor Wastemart threatened, apparently by a syndicate extorting protection money from government contractors. On Friday, five energy department workers were shot at while repairing high mast and streetlights in Crossroads. Rubbish has piled up in the streets.

The City has used private security firms as well as City law enforcement officers to protect workers providing critical services in Philippi East, Crossroads, Browns Farm and Samora Machel.

A reward of up to R5,000 is offered for information leading to arrests of anyone targeting City staff with extortion and violence across the metro, Mayco member for Safety and Security, JP Smith said this week. He said “in response to widespread threats to staff and facilities, the City will soon launch a Facility Protection Unit, which will also provide escorts for staff where needed”.

“Constant threats of violence have led to the need for law enforcement protection just to keep services going for residents. We can put these extortionists behind bars with the community’s help,” said Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis during a visit to Philippi on Monday.

He said a special investigator had been appointed to pursue cases where information may lead to arrests and convictions.

Despite the City’s efforts to clean across Philippi, GroundUp still saw piles of rubbish strewn across Samora Machel.

Beverley van Reenen, Mayco Member for Energy, told GroundUp that electricity teams had temporarily been withdrawn from the community since Friday’s shooting.

“City officials work in extremely difficult circumstances at times. They have, in some instances, been shot at and robbed of their personal belongings while delivering services in communities,” she said.

Grant Twigg, Mayco Member for Urban Waste Management, acknowledged the “severe disruptions” in the Philippi East area in recent weeks due to crime and extortionists. “We have been able to resume services thanks to law enforcement escorts. However, it is not sustainable. The public and SAPS must work with us to arrest extortionists and ensure consequences for this heinous criminality that disrupts basic service delivery for the poorest residents,” he said.

South African Police Services (SAPS) spokesperson Andre Traut told GroundUp that responding to emergency and serious cases often took priority over escorting employees of the municipality and contractors in crime hotspots.

“Police stations are on hand to assist with patrols and visibility in areas when a vehicle is available”.

But despite the City’s efforts to clean Philippi, GroundUp saw piles of rubbish strewn across Samora Machel near Harry Gwala Road, Oliver Tambo Drive and in Kosovo informal settlement.

TOPICS:  Crime Street lights Waste management

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