A judgment recognising the unfair allocation of police resources on the basis of race and poverty has been a long time coming, the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) said on Friday.
SJC general secretary Axolile Notywala was commenting moments after the Western Cape High Court (sitting as the Equality Court) made this declaration.
The court found that the system employed for the allocation of police resources in the Western Cape unfairly discriminated on the basis of race and poverty.
"We are definitely excited and happy. A hearing on remedy still has to be determined," Notywala added.
In 2012, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille appointed the Khayelitsha commission of inquiry following a multitude of complaints about policing and vigilantism.
The 500-page report concluded that there were serious inefficiencies in policing in the area and a breakdown of trust between the community and police.
'Allocation of police resources irrational, discriminatory'
Notywala said there were recommendations already then to review the system. This was followed by protests around the country for proper police responses in local communities, he said.
In March 2016, the SJC, Equal Education and the Nyanga Community Police Forum filed papers in the Equality Court in Cape Town over the allocation of police human resources. The national police minister, national and provincial police commissioners and the provincial community safety MEC were listed as respondents.
The applicants argued that the allocation of police across the nine provinces discriminated against poor black communities and that the system should be overhauled.
In their heads of argument, they stated: "... The current allocation of police resources is both irrational and discriminatory in that it provides more police officers to stations servicing rich, white populations with low contact crime rates, and fewer to stations serving poor, Black communities with high contact crime rates. The result is that residents of these Black communities are less safe, more at risk of crime, and their constitutional rights are more likely to be violated".
The respondents stated in their heads of argument that the system of resource allocation was weighted in favour of poor communities, which are predominantly black.
It also argued that the system was formulated and applied in such a way that greater police resources were directed at communities where crime rates were highest.
'Act by beefing up police service'
The case was heard in November 2017, and February this year.
Notywala also said the ruling was a step closer to having poverty listed as a ground for discrimination in Equality Court cases.
He hoped the police would not appeal the ruling.
Provincial community safety MEC Alan Winde welcomed the judgment on Friday.
"[Police] Minister [Bheki] Cele, you don't need to wait for the court to give you the remedy – we've told you what it is, and it is 4 500 extra police officers. You can act now by beefing up our police service so it can effectively do its job," said Winde.
"If you fail to act, we will pursue the highest courts in the land to remove the responsibility of policing from you."
National police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo said they did not yet have a copy of the judgment and would take time to study it once received.