On 12 December 2016, legal representatives for the Social Justice Coalition (SJC), Equal Education (EE) and the Nyanga Community Police Forum (Nyanga CPF) (the applicants) filed a chamber book application in the Equality Court.
This application has been made due to the failure of the Minister of Police (the Minister, respondent 1), the acting National Police Commissioner and the Western Cape Provincial Police Commissioner (the Commissioners, respondents 2 and 3), to comply with an existing court order made in September 2016 to file responding papers in the main application between the parties.
In this instance, because there is already a court order, the relief we are seeking is simply for the Court to enforce its order and direct respondents 1 to 3 to urgently file responding papers. A chamber book application, if successful, allows for the Court to make an order without hearing oral argument and is used to expedite matters.
The main application
On 31 March 2016, the SJC and EE launched an application to address the ongoing inequitable, irrational and discriminatory allocation of the police’s human resources across all 1140 police precincts in South Africa. The court application was made in terms of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act 4 of 2000. In September 2016, the Nyanga CPF was given leave to intervene alongside the applicants.
Our founding affidavit in the main application can be viewed here: http://www.sjc.org.za/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/2016-03-30-SJC-Founding-Affidavit.pdf
The remedial action we are seeking aims to ensure that the police’s human resources are distributed equitably. It aims to address the highly-skewed situation that results in police precincts that experience extremely high crime rates receiving some of the fewest resources. It aims to level the playing field, for communities, but also for police officers.
In under-resourced areas with high crime levels, police not only have to handle impossible workloads, but are far more likely to be exposed to violence and danger. Of the five publicised police killings that have taken place in less than a month in Cape Town, all have occurred in one of the seven least resourced police precincts in the city.
In 2014, the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry into Policing noted that: ‘One of the questions that has most troubled the Commission is how a system of human resource allocation that appears to be systematically biased against poor black communities could have survived twenty-years into our post-apartheid democracy.’
Police fail to comply with court order
After the main application was launched, on 12 August 2016, all the parties met and developed a proposed timeline to ensure that the process would run efficiently. Judge Boqwana who is presiding over the matter, approved the timeline and signed it into an order of court on 5 September 2016. The order directed the Minister and the Commissioners to file their responding papers by 30 November 2016.
On 24 November, legal representatives of the Minister and the Commissioners indicated they may need a slight extension past 30 November to file responding papers, which was agreed to. However, as of today, responding papers have still not been filed. The Minister and Commissioners are now in violation of a court order.
Instead of filing papers and complying with the court order, SAPS instead have attempted to delay the process by proposing meetings between all parties. Since 2014 we have attempted to meet with the police to discuss this matter and those requests were ignored by the police, including the Minister.
The respondents have now been in possession of our papers for more than eight months. This has afforded them more than enough time to develop an appropriate reply. Their failure to do so is not only disrespectful to the communities they serve and to the Court, as well as additional cost to the taxpayer. Further, as long as the current system of resource allocation continues, it impacts directly on the rights to life, freedom from violence, dignity and numerous other associated rights. It is unconscionable that with such vital issues at hand, the Minister and the Commissioners continue to delay this process.
We hope the Court will view consider their inaction in a serious light and take measures to ensure that the Minister and the Commissioners comply with the order as a matter of urgency.
For comment please contact:
Chumile Sali (SJC) 071 609 3236
Dalli Weyers (SJC) 082 460 2093