Dear honourable member of the Portfolio Committee of Police in Parliament
Re: Black lives, police resources and the Portfolio Committee of Police
Starting on 25 August 2015, after delivering a memorandum to the Minister of Police and the Chairpersons of the Portfolio Committee of Police and the Standing Committee on Security and Justice, members of the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) and school-going youth from Equal Education (EE) camped outside Parliament for three days. We did so in the hope of facilitating engagement with government and elected officials. We slept on your doorstep. No engagement was forthcoming.
We were on your doorstep because exactly 1 year after the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry had found that “a system of human resource allocation that appears to be systematically biased against poor black communities...survived twenty years into our post-apartheid democracy”. In the view of the Commission this flawed and discriminatory system of resource allocation was “evidence of a failure of governance and oversight of SAPS in every sphere of government”. To date the Commission’s 580-page final report is yet to be tabled and substantively debated in the Portfolio Committee of Police.
This wasn’t the first time in 2015 that we attempted to put this structural violence and discrimination perpetuated by the South African Police Service, reminiscent of apartheid, on the Portfolio Committee's agenda. On 14 April 2015 the SJC, along with partner organisation Ndifuna Ukwazi, presented an analysis of the 2015/2016 SAPS budget to the Portfolio Committee. We showed you the numbers and we spoke of the structural violence.
Over the same period, and from another quarter, the Nyanga Community Police Forum (Nyanga CPF), a forum elected by a community brutalised by violent crime,also appealed to you to intervene. In 2014, you yourselves found that a mere 56 detectives in Nyanga were investigating 9000 dockets. One detective had 600 cases to contend with. Despite these hard facts and despite your own findings, today the Nyanga police precinct, per capita, is the second least resourced police precinct in the Western Cape.
By 31 March 2016 the SJC, EE and the Nyanga CPF had witnessed the failure of oversight over the SAPS firsthand. Despite our best attempts to spur government into action, a system of human resource allocation biased against poor black communities persisted. Our organisations were left with no other recourse but to file papers in the Equality Court in Cape Town.
The importance of the litigation before the court is made evident by the fact that the allocation of the 194 605 personnel across the 1144 police stations across South Africa is now public for the very first time. This data set forms part of the papers before the court. The Portfolio Committee of Police requested this data set from SAPS in 2005 and 2007. SAPS refused to put forward this data on both occasions, thereby limiting the ability of the Committee to provide substantive oversight and to ensure accountability. Today, in addition to this letter, we are making this data available to you.
In studying the data you’ll note that although not written in black and white, a trend clearly exists. This prioritises predominantly white middle-class suburbs, with limited violent crime, over predominantly black, poor, working-class communities, with high levels of violent crime, in the allocation of the police’s human resources. You’ll note that the trend is national.
Below we compare the five most murderous precincts from the five provinces featured in South Africa’s top 30 most murderous precincts in 2016/2017 list. We compare these five precincts to the safest fully-staffed police stations in each province. The irrational allocation of resources is self-evident: the police tasked with fighting crime aren’t where crime happens. The inequality and discrimination is unconscionable. In South Africa today there is no justice for the black lives that have been lost and the black lives that will be lost in a system that perpetuates an apartheid legacy, violence towards black bodies and lives.
Although the court will now be the final arbiter, the information put forward in the court papers is indispensable to the work that you must do for the communities you serve by holding the South African Police Service to account.
Parliament has set a mission for itself to be a “vibrant people’s assembly that intervenes and transforms society and addresses the development challenges of our people” and that provides “effective oversight over the Executive by strengthening its scrutiny of actions against the needs of South Africans”.
Today we ask you to answer the following question truthfully. Having heard the needs of people living in South Africa, have you scrutinised the actions of the Executive and have you intervened and transformed society and addressed the development challenges of “your” people who continue to live in fear of falling victim to violent crime?
Today we are on your doorstep again to hand you the court bundle for Equality Court Case Number EC3/2016. We ask you to appreciate our needs and the blood, sweat and tears articulated in our affidavits. We ask you to meaningfully engage the arguments put forth by both the applicants and the respondents. We ask you to follow the arguments in court on 28, 29 and 30 November.
Whatever the outcome of the court case, we have now not only empowered you with our votes but also with information that is indispensable to the effective discharging of your duties. We trust that this time you’ll be up to the task of transforming society for the better.
Head of Programmes
Social Justice Coalition
Deputy General Secretary