Khayelitsha cop rot runs deep

2012-12-05 14:44
(File, Nielen Bottomley, News24)

(File, Nielen Bottomley, News24)

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Cape Town - Damning details have emerged showing a breakdown in relations between Khayelitsha police and the surrounding community.

The information shows that police investigations were often incomplete or poorly conducted, warrants of arrest were issued and then cancelled for unknown reasons, and crime victims were generally “dissatisfied with the treatment” received from officers.

Initial details released from the probe showed that 701 disciplinary cases were brought against officers at the three police stations in the township - Harare, Khayelitsha and Lingelethu West. With 656 officers at these three stations, this means that some are facing multiple charges.

The probe into policing in Khayelitsha was instituted after activists took residents’ complaints to Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and requested an independent commission of inquiry into policing in the area.
 
Zille backed the commission, but it was stopped before it could start when Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa instituted a court order against it.

Police probe found inefficiency

It was decided that the SAPS would first conduct its own probe into policing in the township. It was in this statement that the evidence of police inefficiency was uncovered.

The report also revealed that there was a “dramatic increase" in domestic violence and assault cases registered against police officers of the three stations in Khayelitsha.
 
“This is an indication that those entrusted with the policing of social crimes within the community are, in fact, perpetrators themselves,” it states.
 
The police probe also found victim support centres at the police stations were “unsatisfactory”. For example, the victim support centre at Khayelitsha police station was “found to be situated in an old Wendy house which is in a poor condition and does not conform to any standard set for such a centre”.
 
Investigators found there were volunteers registered and willing to work in the centre, but they were inadequately supported by the station management.
 
Witness statements not taken

Non-governmental organisation Free Gender offered in 2011 to both train officers in victim support and upgrade the support centre, but no feedback was received regarding the proposal.
 
At Harare police station, it was found that although the support centre was adequate, there was nobody manning it.

In further examples of ineptitude, it was revealed that, among other matters:

- witness statements were not taken before case dockets were sent to court, leading to cases being withdrawn;
- forensic experts were not summoned to crime scenes;
- case dockets were withdrawn because statements by the arresting officers were not filed;
- case dockets were withdrawn in court because witnesses were often not summoned.

In one particular case, rape charges were dropped against a man accused of raping 14-year-old Zoliswa Nkonyana in 2001.

Five years later, Nkonyana was stoned and beaten to death by a gang of men because she lived openly as a lesbian. The case dragged on for six years, drawing national attention over the slow pace of justice.

Only four of the nine men originally charged with Nkonyana’s murder were eventually jailed for the crime.
 
Abusive treatment from police - resident

Khayelitsha resident Nombeko Nudhe described to News24 numerous examples of how local police had failed to properly carry out their duties.

Nudhe said that in 2009 she was called as a witness for an accident she was not at. She also accused police of stealing her cellphone.

“In July police searched my house for a family member, and when they left my phone was gone,” she said.

Nudhe claimed police would not let her open a case against the officers who were at her house, because she “did not see who took the phone”.

In another incident earlier this year, she said police would not let her open a case of housebreaking because she reported it a day later.

“Police do not treat us well and their abusive treatment makes us feel like victims.”
 
'Not a total breakdown in relations'

However, the police report states that while there was reason for residents to complain about service delivery, it could not be claimed that there was a total breakdown in relations.

“As it is evident in this report, the [SA] Police Service cannot claim that the services rendered to the community in Khayelitsha [are] of such a standard that the community does not have any reason for complaining,” it says.

But the report also points out that it is “unreasonable” for NGOs to claim there is a "total breakdown in police-community relations”.
 
It said that conventional methods of policing, such as foot and bicycle patrols, are high risk activities given the township’s infrastructure.
 
Khayelitsha police referred News24 to the provincial police for comment. By the time of publishing, Western Cape police had not responded.
 
The Western Cape High Court will on 13 December hear the case of whether to allow the independent commission of inquiry to go ahead.

Read more on:    police  |  zoliswa nkonyana  |  cape town

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