Crime summit for Khayelitsha needed, say organisations

| Barbara Maregele
Members of Social Justice Coalition(SJC), Treatment Action Campaign, Ndifuna Ukwazi and Equal Education marching through the city centre to celebrate the release of Khayelitsha commission of inquiry’s findings and recommendations. Photo by Barbara Maregele.

In a bid to tackle the many police “inefficiencies” highlighted by scores of residents in the Khayelitsha commission of inquiry report, community organisations plan to host a joint crime summit with police.

While a date for the summit is yet to be confirmed, organisation leaders say they are positive it will be beneficial for both the community and the police.

“The organisations have been meeting with police before the report was released [on 25 August], but now we have something to guide us,” said the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) community mobiliser Michael Hamnca. “We are talking about hosting a safety summit where some of the recommendations will be addressed and discussed. We are still in the process of planning it, but it will definitely happen before December this year.”

Nearly 100 members of the TAC, Social Justice Coalition (SJC), Ndifuna Ukwazi and Equal Education peacefully marched through the city centre on Thursday to celebrate the release of commission’s findings and recommendations.

The group also handed over two memorandums to representatives from the City of Cape Town and Western Cape Provincial government.

In the memorandum, the organisations call for the City and the province to “adopt a proactive approach” when considering the commission’s recommendations. The organisations are willing to assist where needed.

Hamnca said the summit will create a platform for the recommendations to be discussed.

“There were a lot of findings and recommendations made in the report, like a shortage of resources, visibility of police, and the need for CCTV cameras. We will be trying to outline a plan on how to deal with these important issues. There will also be discussions about how all the parties can work together to make sure the recommendations are implemented in the community,” he said.

In the 508 page report, the “devastating” testimonies and written statements of more than 80 Khayelitsha residents were included as evidence.

Community members testified about vengeance attacks, robbery, police incompetence and the failure of the police to deal with youth gangs in the area.

In one case, Makhaza resident Vuyiswa Mpekweni (52) told how she lost all hope in the police when she was forced to conduct her own investigation into the whereabouts of the man who allegedly murdered her family members.

Mpekweni told the commission that her niece and her three children were burnt to death in their shack in October 2007. The next day, Mpekweni heard that her niece’s husband had gone to the Harare police station to confess to the murders. The man appeared in court, but the docket could not be found, and he was released. He moved to Johannesburg soon after. When Mpekweni informed the police of this, she was told to go and find his address.

Earlier this year, the commission discovered that the man had been arrested and the matter was pending in the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court.

“It can’t only be a police issue. If we don’t do this together it is not going to work”

In the summary of all the complaints, the commission found that 76% of those who gave written and verbal statements said they got poor service from police. About 43% complained that SAPS did not investigate the crime they reported; 44% complained of the failure of police to keep victims, their family members and witnesses informed of the progress of criminal investigations and prosecutions; 18% complained of the police’s failure to respond promptly to calls for help; 7% complained that dockets were not at court; 8% were complaints of police assault or brutality.

Hamnca said 10 experienced police detectives will be looking into each of the cases highlighted during the commission.

“They will report back to us about whether the case was solved and if not, why. To also check if the case can be put back on the court roll. We know that some of the recommendations won’t be done in a year or two because it needs manpower, commitment and for the provincial task team to keep monitoring the process,” he said.

According to Hamnca, organizations will soon be included in the Community Policing Forums to ensure that community grievances are resolved.

During the march on 4 September, members of the four organizations sang and chanted while holding banners and black and white posters as police escorted the group from Keizersgracht to the Provincial Legislature in Wale Street.

Before handing over the signed memorandums to Western Cape MEC for Safety and Security Dan Plato and the chief of staff in the mayor’s office, Paul Boughey, leaders addressed the crowd.

Ndifuna Ukwazi’s Zackie Achmat also confirmed the meeting with the South African Police Services.

“We are looking at what recommendations to prioritize with the police. The fact that the City did not acknowledge the issue of toilets and lighting in the area is disappointing,” he said.

Achmat said they will return in larger numbers if the memorandum is just ignored.

Joel Bregman of the SJC said it was important for the City and the province to have a proactive role as recommended by commissioners Kate O’Regan and Vusi Pikoli.

“Everyone who has any responsibility around safety and justice issues needs to be proactive. A lot of the recommendations call for the cooperation from a number of key role-players. It can’t only be a police issue. If we don’t do this together it’s not going to work,” he said.

Bregman confirmed that they were working with police and would soon be setting up a forum to deal with the recommendations.

“I worked for years collecting a lot of those testimonies [in the commission] so I wasn’t that shocked when the findings in the report came out … to see how many people were actually affected so badly just reinforced what we’ve been saying for many years,” he said.

Both Plato and Boughey accepted the memorandums and promised to consider their requests.

“In the next few days the province will be releasing a statement on the report,” said Plato.

TOPICS:  Civil Society Crime Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry into Policing

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