Khayelitsha residents march in support of police inquiry, as court hears case

| Mary-anne Gontsana
Photo by Mary-Anne Gontsana.

On Tuesday judgement for the O’Regan/Pikoli Commission of Inquiry (COI) into policing in Khayelitsha was reserved by the Constitutional Court. A full bench of 11 justices heard the case.

While the case was heard about 500 people led by Phumeza Mlungwana of the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) marched from Joubert Park to the Constitutional Court in support of the commission. Mlungwana described the march as a success, as many people showed up and stayed till the very end of the case.

Norman Arendse represented the police; Shaun Rosenberg the Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille; Peter Hathorn stood for the SJC.

The case arose when Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa appealed to the Constitutional Court after his application for an interdict to stop a commission into policing in Khayelitsha was unsuccessful.

Arendse argued that the powers given by the commission were too wide, and that the police shouldn’t be subpoenaed by a premier extending her powers in this manner. He also said a commission would take the police away from their jobs as they would have to focus on the cases presented to the commission.

Meanwhile Khayelitsha residents braved the cold weather and rain and came out in their numbers to show their support for the COI at the OR Tambo Hall.

Opened by Zackie Achmat, the court hearing was live-streamed, giving residents the chance to express why they wanted the COI to go ahead.

One resident, who identified himself only as Siyabulela, said he has the continuous problem of a person breaking into his house and stealing his goods.

“When I went to the police station to report this, they first laughed at me, then asked me why I don’t just sort out the problem myself. About two weeks ago, the same person stabbed a friend of mine. When I went to the police station at about 2am to report this, a case was indeed opened, but when I asked a van to escort me, I was told that it couldn’t be done because there were people protesting somewhere so it was dangerous. I had to walk all the way back home.”

An old woman on crutches told residents how people collecting social grants suffer at the hands of criminals. She also complained about the lack of visibility of police at paypoints. She added that police too were at the mercy of criminals, who often killed them.

According to the SJC, in Khayelitsha last year there were 360 murders. There were also two cases of sexual assault reported each day. This when it is estimated that only 1 in 9 cases of rape are in fact reported.

The Public Service Commission in its consolidated report on inspections of detective services showed that on average a single police officer was responsible for 20 dockets, but in Khayelitsha one police officer was responsible for 132 dockets.

A 2009/2010 survey on crime and security showed that in the Western Cape there was one police officer for 250 people, where as in Khayelitsha one police officer was responsible for 1143 people.

Axolile Notywala, also from the SJC, said no date had been set yet for the judgement.

TOPICS:  Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry into Policing National Provincial

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