Three years after the Khayelitsha Commission, has there been progress?

Western Cape Premier and SJC disagree on police track record

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Photo of four people
From left to right, Dan Plato and Helen Zille receive the report into policing in Khayelitsha from commissioners Kate O’Regan and Vusi Pikoli. Photo: Masixole Feni.

Three years after the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry completed its work, the Western Cape Government says “steady progress” is being made in the implementation of its recommendations, but the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) is less optimistic.

The Office of Premier Helen Zille said in a statement this week that feedback from the task team set up following the Commission as well as other people involved “points to a marked difference in the working relationship of participants in the safety space in Khayelitsha – a significant change in the right direction.”

But the SJC told GroundUp that “intransigence at a national level has resulted in at best incremental progress.”

This was in spite of “attempts at a local Khayelitsha Cluster level to implement the recommendations,” said Dalli Weyers, a senior researcher at the SJC.

The Office of the Premier said positive developments in policing in Khayelitsha included the appointment of additional detectives, the establishment of a monitoring and oversight team, a reduction in vigilante killings and the filling of leadership and management posts.

The Premier’s Office listed seven recommendations made by the Commission which it said had been met or were being met.

One of these relates to detective services at the Khayelitsha Police Stations and the Family Child and Sexual Offences Unit. The Premier said Khayelitsha currently had 156 detectives and this was being increased to 170.

But Weyers said that while the SJC did not have information about the number of detectives across Khayelitsha, “in the court papers filed by SAPS in the Police Resources court case, it was revealed that in January this year, the three stations in Khayelitsha combined, had 10 less detectives than they had in April 2013”.

“Even if those numbers have since changed, this is not steady progress,” said Weyers.

The Office of the Premier said that an inquest backlog team had been appointed and “by June 2016 they had reduced the backlog from 3,400 cases in 2014 to 1,601”.

“By 1 September 2016 the number of case dockets per detective had reduced to 65 per member, compared to 100 at the time of the Commission. The standard has been maintained in line with the national standard for case dockets per detective.”

In reply to this, the SJC said that in response to a written question in the provincial legislature three months earlier, SAPS said that detectives in Harare had on average 79 dockets each, 67 in Khayelitsha and 127 in Lingelethu-West.

“In the same response, SAPS indicated that detectives in Nyanga, which had 279 murders in 2015/2016, were on average carrying 135 dockets. This sobering reality underscores why we believe progress has at best been incremental. SAPS’s failure as an organisation to make the necessary systemic changes to implement the recommendations means that progress locally is reactive and might be short-lived,” said Weyers.

The Premier’s office pointed to “several key areas” which remained a concern, including leadership and staffing at the Family, Child and Sexual Offences Unit, the allocation of staff to the police stations in Khayelitsha, failure to release monthly crime statistics, no new police station at Makhaza and backlogs at the National Chemical Laboratories in Cape Town.

“We will continue to pursue all the available channels, including discussions with Police Minister Fikile Mbalula, to ensure the successful implementation of all the recommendations. While there has been a significant move in the right direction, the Minister is yet to express a concrete commitment to this process,” the Premier’s office said.

Weyers said that while the SJC appreciates that the Premier was highlighting the work that is being done to make Khayelitsha safe, claiming that there is ‘steady progress’ on specific recommendations when SAPS is continuing to fail communities, is irresponsible.” For instance, the Provincial Commissioner had failed to issue guidelines for visible policing in informal settlements, said Weyers. This was one of the recommendations made by the Commission.

“The fact that SAPS has no guideline on how to visibly patrol and serve these communities means that SAPS is failing to fulfil its constitutional obligation towards residents. The fact that the Premier’s office can frame this as ‘steady progress’ means that the Western Cape Government is failing in its constitutional obligation to exercise oversight over SAPS,” said Weyers.

TOPICS:  Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry into Policing

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