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Narrow Alexandra streets a 'huge problem' for police to navigate

Provincial police commissioner Elias Mawela said overpopulation was another challenge in Alexandra.

Gauteng police commissioner Elias Mawela at the Alex inquiry in Braamfontein on 4 June 2019. Picture: Edwin Ntshidi/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Gauteng police say the layout of Alexandra is a huge challenge for policing.

Provincial police commissioner Elias Mawela gave this testimony before the South African Human Rights Commission inquiry into Alexandra on Tuesday.

The inquiry was set up following the March shutdown campaign in which residents embarked on a series of housing and service delivery protests.

It was also looking at maladministration and corruption in the multimillion-rand Alexandra Renewal Project.

He said apart from making movement for police difficult, the narrow streets also made observing the rules of the road difficult for motorists.

“If the street is narrow, where will the taxi stop to pick up somebody? You’ll end up stopping in the middle of the road. Buildings are built up to the pavement which makes it difficult for people to walk.”

General Mawela said overpopulation was another challenge.

The commission inquiry also heard how socio-economic issues including unemployment were the main contributors to crime in the township.

Mawela was detailing how officers in Alexandra were working hard to rid the troubled township of criminal elements, often with minimal resources.

“For the period between 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2019, some few serious crimes include malicious damage to property, business robbery, robbery with weapon, common robbery, assault GBH, theft of motor vehicle.”

The director-general in the office of the Gauteng premier is set to testify next.

LAWLESSNESS AREA?

Mawela disputed claims that Alexandra was a lawless neighbourhood after Gauteng cooperative governance officials testified to that effect.

Mawela said that was not the case despite challenges of resources and staff.

“Crime does happen in Alexandra. We are of the opinion that the police and members of Alexandra are doing their best to take control of the crime situation in Alexandra. What we don’t agree with is to say that there is lawlessness.”

He said officers had confiscated a lot of firearms and closed illegal liquor outlets.

It is estimated that Alexandra has a population of more than 170,000 and the accepted international ratio is one officer to 288 people. Without being specific, Mawela said in Alexandra that was not the case.

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