‘We are coming for you’: Bheki Cele issues stern warning to Westbury gangsters
Police Minister Bheki Cele issued a stern warning to drug lords and 'gangsters' in Westbury‚ Johannesburg‚ on Thursday – and he wants cops to break down doors to turn the warning into reality.
"Officers‚ you go and knock at the doors and get us all the wanted criminals. We have got a top 20 list now‚ it will be given to you‚ and that list says you go and knock at the doors and if no one opens‚ you break the door down‚" Cele said.
Cele was speaking at a stadium in the area on Thursday.
He said a group of 143 specialised team members of the Tactical Response Team (TRT) had been selected to stabilise the situation in Westbury. The TRT are more commonly known as the 'Amaberete'.
Ten of the members will go undercover and collect intelligence.
Cele was speaking as a drug turf war saw Westbury residents taking to the streets in protest. In an almost week-long protest‚ community members barricaded several roads with rocks and burning tyres.
The protests turned bloody when scores of locals were shot and wounded by police with rubber bullets earlier in the week. A police nyala was almost petrol-bombed.
For the past few days‚ the streets in Westbury were littered with rocks‚ rubble‚ garbage and empty rubber bullet and teargas cases.
This was Cele’s second visit to the area this week.
"We are here to arrest drug lords‚ we are here to arrest murderers‚ we are here to arrest thieves and rapists. There shall be no space for criminals in this community anymore‚" he said.
Cele said they would make sure they left no stone unturned and "squeeze" criminals out.
"If gangsters want war‚ don't shoot women‚ don't shoot children or mothers‚ here are the people you need to face‚” he said of the TRT.
“If they want to play with their toys‚ they can come and face us. These guys [officers] will carry the real stuff. "If you don't come to us‚ we will come to you."
According to Cele‚ the crime statistics of 2017 revealed that 33 people were murdered in the area.
More than 15 murders have been recorded in the area thus far this year.
"There should be no one dying here. We want people to live in peace here."
Cele also urged community members to work together with police.
"Work together‚ support them‚ talk to them and give them information about criminals. Give us the names of the corrupt officials‚ because corruption causes communities to suffer."
He said they were also in discussions with the justice department to assign dedicated prosecutors to prosecute criminals from Westbury.
National police commissioner Khehla Sitole said they were investigating allegations of corruption at the Sophiatown police station.
"Let's trust them [government] for once‚ let's give government a chance to do their work. Let's see how long they could keep their promise‚" resident Earl Williams told TimesLIVE.
The 36-year-old‚ who is a father of three‚ said community members are living in constant fear.
"Our lives are in danger‚ we don't know how long the police officers will be in the area and if the criminals will be arrested."
Another resident‚ Jackie Johaar‚ said police officers would be given the "benefit of the doubt".
"We are hoping to God that the outcome will be successful. Us as a community must stand together and move mountains. This must stop and has to stop."