Cele cuts Zwelihle visit short after community rounds on him
Police Minister Bheki Cele's community meeting in Hermanus was cut short on Friday after angry residents rounded on him when he issued stern warnings following an attack on a policeman.
About 3 000 people listened to Cele's opening remarks - at first with a positive response. But the tone changed quickly as Cele delivered his fiery address.
"The problem is that we can't let people carry themselves like hooligans," said Cele.
"Last night there were people who attacked a policeman with an axe," he said.
The officer was airlifted to a hospital in Somerset West and is in a critical condition. Three guns were stolen from his truck but two were recovered.
Cele said the police would be setting up a base camp in the middle of Zwelihle and would not relent until the third gun was recovered.
He started explaining that these police responsibilities were in the Constitution.
However, while the message received a standing ovation during his earlier "stakeholder" meeting at the Overstrand Municipality, a noisy walkout started at the stadium.
Public Order Police quickly filed in front of the stage with their shields as Cele said: "No listen, listen to me... it doesn't help not listening to me."
The police band struck up Miriam Makeba's Pata Pata while some people slipped through the police cordon, but the band gave up and packed up.
Cele approached those who called for his attention and, on his haunches, was told that his people had briefed him incorrectly and that he did not know what was happening in Zwelihle.
He was told he should have spoken to them first when he visited, instead of meeting business representatives, councillors and other concerned residents first.
In the earlier meeting, he heard that the town's businesses were suffering due to the ongoing unrest. There were also demands for stronger police action. A pledge was also made to pay Zwelihle residents for work missed due to the unrest, to help repair damage and to arrange trauma counselling.
A tactical team arrested 12 people in an overnight operation after the axe attack.
Those arrested in the overnight swoop include Zwelihle Renewal Committee member Sicelo Gxamesi and the committee's spokesperson Theron Mqhu.
The town has been rocked by protests over land for backyarders and accusations of unequal service delivery between whites and blacks.
Since last week, more than 50 people have been arrested on charges of malicious damage to property, and public violence.
Earlier on Friday, Zwelihle Renewal Committee member and Correctional Services officer Gcobani Ndzongana appeared in Strand Magistrate's Court on charges of malicious damage to property and incitement. There is a demand from some residents for his immediate release since he had led much of the campaign for land and better services.
They also feel he is being treated as if he is guilty.
In March, more than 60 people were arrested following an attempt to plot out stands for themselves on municipal property.
The provincial government and municipality are working on a plan to let people build on several stands.
At the stadium after the programme was abandoned, Cele and a small group withdrew into a narrow alley between buildings for an impromptu meeting.
Siyabulela Nothwata, speaking on behalf of the committee, told the media that it was the community that tracked down the missing guns and phoned the police and told them they had found them.
He said the community felt "discarded" and did not get the same services as white residents.
He told Cele that they "would do anything" to get the missing gun back, but felt the police were intervening in what was essentially a service delivery issue.
Cele said he would clear his diary and return at 09:00 on Tuesday to talk to residents.
He asked them to prepare an agenda for the meeting, and he and other officials were escorted out. They included Premier Helen Zille and provincial police commissioner Lieutenant General Khombinkosi Jula.
Zille said earlier that the tactical team's arrests conducted overnight were a game changer in restoring order with extra manpower.
Cele's spokesperson Reneilwe Serero told News24 that the minister had gone to visit the injured officer in hospital afterwards.
Serero said his wife and children were with him and they expressed concern for his colleagues who were still on the front line.
The search for the missing gun continues.