Premier Agrees To Consider Request To Investigate Western Cape Police and Criminal Justice Systemic Failures

On 13 October 2011, representatives of our organisations met with the Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and MEC for Community Safety Dan Plato.

The meeting was called in response to a picket and protest of at least 600 people on 4 October 2011 outside the provincial parliament in Cape Town where we issued, for the second time, a memorandum calling for an independent commission of inquiry/ investigation into the continued and systemic failures of the criminal justice system in Khayelitsha – with a focus on the conduct of the police system. We first issued such a memorandum to the former MEC for Safety, Albert Fritz in September 2010.

Through our work over many years, we have identified numerous problems that prevent the realisation of residents’ rights to justice in Khayelitsha. These include at times poorly conducted police investigations and often a disregard or ignorance of procedures resulting in cases being withdrawn or lost on technicalities and for lack of evidence; dockets being lost; the incorrect granting of bail to people accused of schedule 6 crimes such as murder and rape; lack of communication between the criminal justice agencies and survivors, victims and their families; corruption; and ongoing postponements that results in cases taking years to complete causing untold agony for all parties involved.

In our collective experience and work, many victims of crime in Khayelitsha – and in other working class and poor communities – do not have adequate access to justice – a right that is guaranteed by the Constitution and the Victims Charter. Increasing crime in poor areas like Khayelitsha continues to affect residents more so than in any other part of the Western Cape. For example, despite a reported national drop in the murder rate over the past year, Khayelitsha’s murder rate has increased by 6.9% last year and by 9.5% over the past two years.[1]

Where we work and campaign, people are assaulted, robbed, raped, and murdered daily, when doing things that many people living outside of informal settlements take for granted, such as, using the toilet or accessing transport to work.

We have monitored numerous cases in Khayelitsha over the last few years, which reveal that the police are not fulfilling their responsibility as outlined in s 205 (3) of the Constitution to, ‘prevent, combat and investigate crime, to maintain public order, to protect and secure the inhabitants of the Republic and their property, and to uphold and enforce the law’. Our organisations maintain that these are not isolated instances, but are reflective of an unhealthy, failing and dysfunctional criminal justice system for poor people.

An investigation/commission of inquiry into what is happening in Khayelitsha and elsewhere will reveal the scope and degree of the problem, and allow for it to be appropriately addressed.

Section 206 (5) of the Constitution provides that a province ‘may investigate, or appoint a commission of inquiry into, any complaints of police inefficiency or a breakdown in relations between the police and any community; and must make recommendations to the Cabinet member responsible for policing’.

For this reason our organisations with others, will be lodging a complaint in terms of s 206 (5) of the Constitution in which we will formally request the Premier and the Provincial government to appoint such a commission of inquiry.

Statement issued by:

  1. Social Justice Coalition
  2. Ndifuna Ukwazi
  3. Equal Education
  4. Treatment Action Campaign
  5. Triangle Project
  6. Women’s Legal Centre

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