Khayelitsha commission a “victory for justice” say organisations

| Barbara Maregele
Civil society organisations marched in support of the Khayelitsha commission of inquiry report. Photo by Daneel Knoetze.

The organisations that originally called for the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry into policing in Khayelitsha have welcomed as a “victory for justice” the commission’s findings and recommendations.

Established by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille, the commission investigated allegations of police inefficiencies and a breakdown in the relationship between the Khayelitsha community and members of the South African Police Service (SAPS).

The evidence of about 100 people including Khayelitsha residents, police, government officials and experts was heard during three months of public hearings.

Yesterday, commissioners Kate O’Regan and Vusi Pikoli presented the 580-page report.

The national ministry of police has said they will issue a formal response once they have had time to go through the document.

Khayelitsha cluster commander Major-General Johan Brand said he was confident that some of the recommendations could be achieved with the cooperation of the community, policing forums and nong-governmental organisations.

“In the next three months we plan to start implementing the multi-facet approach in dealing with some of the recommendations made by the commission,” he said. “We have already started with partnership policing where we are encouraging complainants and organisations to join.”

Several NGOs including the Social Justice Coalition (SJC), Ndifuna Ukwazi, Equal Education and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) have been pushing to hold local and national government accountable to address issues raised by the residents of Khayelitsha.

SJC project manager Axolile Notywala said, “We are celebrating the fact that the report came out, but the fact that there is a breakdown in the relationship with police and the community is nothing to celebrate. We will be starting a working relationship with Khayelitsha police to make sure that the recommendations are followed.”

Equal Education deputy chairman Nthuzo Ndzomo called for the establishment of a multi-sectoral committee to deal with the issue of youth gangs. “Gangs affect our members. The reality is there are not enough after-school activities for children in the community. We know there is still a lot that needs to be done from here as civil society to ensure the inclusivity of all stakeholders,” he said.

The TAC’s Michael Hamca praised the commission for being a pilot that will serve as an example of good governance to other provinces.

Zackie Achmat of Ndifuna Ukwazi said the recommendation not only empathized with the community, but also considered the difficulties police have in the province.

“There was no finger pointing,” he said. “The commission has affirmed a [need for a] greater deal of justice for the victims of crime in Khayelitsha.”

Achmat highlighted the “practical” recommendations made about the allocation of resources.

“The immediate action of bringing ten senior detectives and backlog teams to Harare and Site B will have immediate benefits,” he said. “Government needs to change the allocation of resources in order to service poor communities better. These things can’t be addressed without addressing safe toilets, lighting and safe schools.”

Zille said some of the recommendations could be used by police stations in other communities to improve service delivery.

In the summary of the report, it was recommended that the provincial government establish a task team to address the issue of youth gangs and illegal shebeens in the area.

“Gangs are a big challenge because we know how deep rooted this problem is. This is one of the oversights in our Community Safety portfolio. The regulation of liquor outlets is a touchy subject in Cape Town. We will be doing a survey in the communities, and on the basis of those findings we will be able to deal with the unlawful taverns,” Zille said.

Zille said her government also supported the recommendation for police to have a memorandum of understanding, for closed dockets to be inspected, and for there to be unannounced visits by senior officers.

She also announced that provincial government will soon launch a police ombudsman to deal with complaints, investigate them and make recommendations on their findings.

Zille said she supported remarks made by the commissioners who urged the importance of police remaining independent from political parties in order to maintain the respect of the community.

“The accountability of the police is to the Constitution. The establishment of an inquiry is one of the checks and balances in our Constitution and the oversight given to us as the local government,” she said.

Western Cape Safety and Security MEC Dan Plato said: “The link between liquor outlets and crimes in the area is important to note. There is also a clear lack of efficiency in the police, but you need to also look at police management which has a key role,” he said.

TOPICS:  Civil Society Crime Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry into Policing Provincial

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