Cape Town – Anti-crime activists say they expect the newly appointed Western Cape’s acting police commissioner, Thembisile Patekile, who had his first full day on the job on Monday, to bring strategic leadership and stability to the police service in the province.
Patekile, who replaced commissioner Yolisa Mokgabudi (formerly Matakata), comes from Mount Road Cluster office in Port Elizabeth where he was appointed as the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality District Commissioner in 2018.
Patekile said one of his plans would be to root out illegal firearms from the streets, saying most murders, attempted murders, robberies and some of the gender-based violence cases were committed using illegal firearms.
He said that meant there was a proliferation of firearms within the province, “therefore we need to get to that space of firearms, to save lives”.
Patekile said they needed to ensure that there was partnership with community stakeholders, “because crime is committed at a street and block level in the case of the Cape Flats and squatter camps”.
He said they also needed to tighten their investigations to bring to book those people who were never arrested for committing crime, because they were still busy committing crimes.
“We will also be on a mission to quell taxi violence and organised crimes such as extortion,” said Patekile.
He said he was looking forward to working with the Western Cape Government, community policing forums (CPFs), neighbourhood watches, metro police and the City’s law enforcement officers.
Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz said his working relationship with Matakata had been marked by openness and transparency and he thanked her for her service.
Matakata is expected to assume duties as Acting Divisional Commissioner: Crime Intelligence, which comes less than two years after she took over as the province’s top cop in December 2019.
This was amid previous allegations of her predecessor Khombinkosi Jula’s apparent failure to bring down the level of crime in the province at the time. Jula, who was transferred to take the helm in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) from August 1, 2019, has apparently exited the police service last month.
After he (Jula) left the Western Cape, Lieutenant General Sindile Mfazi was then appointed as the acting provincial police commissioner in KZN, until the appointment of Mokgabudi, who will now be replacing the controversial provincial Crime Intelligence head Mzwandile Tiyo.
However, Fritz said he was looking forward to working closely with Patekile on issues related to safety in the province.
Whistle-blower and community activist Colin Arendse said it was now clear that the “Bantustan faction” in the police were in charge as they should have appointed Jeremy Vearey in the first place as he was the most experienced and diligent officer who not only knows how to deal with crime on the Cape Flats but also has decades of experience of investigating gang-related crimes as well.
Police Minister Bheki Cele’s spokesperson, Lirandzu Themba, said Cele was being informed by the National Police management of the changes in the province.
CPF provincial chairperson Fransina Lukas said their concern about the constant changing of provincial police commissioners and the instability it brought to the police management and policing in the province.
“We need a stable environment where policing takes centre stage because the recently released crime statistics again showed the Western Cape to be the crime hot spot of the country,” said Lukas.
She said Patekile knew the province well and hoped that he would do what was needed to bring crime under control, and that he would take their hands as communities and work with them to fight crime.
“Ultimately, the Western Cape needs someone permanent and someone local to occupy the provincial commissioner seat. We cannot continue with acting positions,” she said.
ANC provincial spokesperson for Community Safety Mesuli Kama said Patekile was familiar with Western Cape challenges, and hoped that he would continue to improve policing in the province, especially the integration of community in the fight against crime, improve crime intelligence and bring an evidence-based approach into policing.
Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) provincial secretary Mziwabantu Nqamra said they were not happy by the sudden move.
“We believe it won’t do justice in our province. We, however, are going to meet with Patekile to ensure that there are no gaps in the building blocks established by Matakata and him,” said Nqamra.
Nqamra said the constant change of leadership signalled instability.
He said Matakata played a significant role in the province in a short space of time.
“Immediately when she was appointed as provincial commissioner she shared her vision of curbing crime and forging strong unity in her management as she inherited a divided management,” he said.