Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry: Four years later, what has changed?

2018-08-29 05:17

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2018-08-27 18:29

Western Cape community safety MEC Dan Plato led a MenUnited march against women and children abuse in Khayelitsha. Watch.WATCH

Four years after the completion of the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry into policing in one of Cape Town's poorest suburbs some headway has been made into implementing the 20 recommendations submitted after its conclusion.

But residents living in the sprawling suburb of Khayelitsha about 30km from the city centre are far from being any safer.

Statistics paint a bleak picture of increasing violent crime since commission chairpersons Judge Kate O'Regan and advocate Vusi Pikoli found there was a breakdown in relations between community members and police officers in the area characterised by a significant level of residents' distrust of the police.

In 2014, a total of 353 murders were reported collectively to the Khayelitsha, Harare and Lingelethu West police stations. During the last financial year, this increased to 397.

Illegal gun and firearm possession – crime detected as a result of police action – stood at 268 reported in 2014. This increased to 364 last year.

Aggravated robbery stood at 2 415 reported incidents four years ago. In the latest crime statistics, the number rose to 2 950.

Both Khayelitsha and Harare police stations are in the top 10 precincts for most murders reported in 2016/2017 nationally.

So, when will the effect of the multimillion-rand commission be felt by those who call this crime-ridden community home?

New police station

Social Justice Coalition's co-head of programmes Dalli Weyers said it is hoped that the impact will be felt beyond 2020, once a new police station is established in Makhaza, Khayelitsha.

This would hopefully result in an improved police to population ratio, allow easier access to a police station and see a quicker police response time, he explained.

Premier Helen Zille – who appointed the commission of inquiry – recently confirmed that the South African Police Service (SAPS) plans to start construction within the 2018/2019 financial year and aims to complete the project by 2020.

Along with the station, the area needed "more boots on the ground", she said.

"We won't see improved results from a new police station if the intention is to simply spread police officers out more thinly."

Doc Xabanisa at his stall in Govan Mbeki Road, where he has witnessed numerous robberies as commuters make their way home. Most choose not to report it because it takes “forever” for police to arrive - if they pitch at all, he said. “They aren’t very reliable.” (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Weyers agreed that additional police resources were key to unlocking the effect of the commission.

Once more officers were on the ground to engage and build relationships with the people the station is meant to serve, members of the community could be more forthcoming with information, faith would start being restored and the authorities and the public would be more likely to work as a collective in making the neighbourhood's streets safer, he said.

According to Zille, the latest police to population ratio in Khayelitsha is 1:521, which Weyers said was lower than the national average.

Provincial government believes "substantive measures" have been implemented, while progress is being made in realising the recommendations handed down in August 2014.

But the SJC, which lobbied for the establishment of the commission on the grounds that police inaction was leading to Khayelitsha residents taking the law into their own hands, is less optimistic.

READ: Police report - 20 key recommendations

CCTV cameras

While eight high-mast CCTV cameras have been installed in the suburb's Town Two in the last year, Weyers pointed out that they were installed in conjunction with the premier's Alcohol Harms Reduction Game Changer campaign, meaning that the cameras "narrowly focus on the enforcement of the Western Cape Liquor Act and not crime prevention or detection more broadly".

They were also erected without police input, he said.

Zille’s spokesperson Marcellino Martin denied that the cameras only focused on alcohol-related incidents. He cited an arrest which was made after two men robbed a woman on July 26, as well as an injured person being spotted and an ambulance and police being dispatched to assist a week prior.

According to Martin, SAPS in June 2017 advised on the optimal locations of the new cameras, and this was signed off by the Khayelitsha Custer Commander on June 29, 2017.

Lumka Nganana is sympathetic to police officers who have to work in the “dangerous streets” of Khayelitsha. “If we feel unsafe, what about them? They must chase bad people who turn around and target them to steal their guns.” (Tammy Petersen, News24)

The 24 CCTV cameras – barring eight which are not in operation due to vandalism – mounted around Khayelitsha are monitored at the City of Cape Town's traffic management centre "for coordinated response by police and law enforcement officials," provincial authorities said.

Weyers countered that this statement was misleading. 

In a task team meeting earlier this year, the SJC learnt that while the footage was streamed to the centre, the footage of the eight new cameras was "monitored by young Chrysalis (Academy) graduates" on the Expanded Public Works Programme.

"The fact that experienced professionals aren't monitoring these cameras, covering some of the most violent communities in the country, is irresponsible," Weyers contended.

Martin maintained that the cameras are monitored from the Cape Town Traffic Management Centre, “where law enforcement responses are increasingly integrated”.

"Professionally trained Chrysalis Academy graduates monitor the cameras, and have successfully collaborated with SAPS on arrests resulting from footage. For the first few months, law enforcement based at the cameras to capacitate the graduates."

Almost 200 crimes have been recorded on CCTV in 2017 and 2018 in the area.

Martin said that a recent survey in Town Two said a total of 74% of respondents felt their neighbourhood was a safer place to live in 12 months on as a result of the steps taken.

*UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect responding comments from the premier's spokesperson Marcellino Martin on the installation of CCTV cameras in Khayelitsha.

27% staff shortage

MEC for community safety Dan Plato said law enforcement presence had also been increased in the area, with 12 additional officers being deployed.

"The department of community safety has managed to accredit 24 neighbourhood watches in the Khayelitsha cluster. These community partners are now recognised under the Community Safety Act and can be assisted with training and resources. Another 10 neighbourhood watches are also pending accreditation," Plato said.

Leadership and staffing problems at the SAPS family, child and sexual offences unit were last year flagged as a key area which had not seen any marked improvement.

According to provincial government, a unit commander has since been appointed, but still faces a 27% staff shortage.

Inroads had however been made in reducing the unit's case backlog.

Lindani Ngetu doesn’t often report crime incidents to police and considers the authorities “too lazy to investigate”. “People are literally getting away with murder. So what are the chances they will find my stolen goods?” (Tammy Petersen, News24)

Weyers said while all 20 recommendations were important, the SJC had chosen to engage specific recommendations to "allow for a more focused and informed analysis of how the recommendations are being implemented".

Khayelitsha consists of both brick houses and shacks clustered together with corridors in between that are inaccessible to vehicles.

Weyers pointed out there were no guidelines for visible policing in informal neighbourhoods.

This despite one of the recommendations being that these be issued by the provincial police commissioner.

"The commission found that routine visible policing patrols are conducted in vehicles on paved roads and most informal neighbourhoods are not accessible by vehicle. [It] considered it completely unacceptable that neighbourhoods where residents are particularly vulnerable are being largely overlooked by the SAPS."

Government 'dithering'

Weyers also criticised Cabinet, the SAPS and the Portfolio Committee on Police's "dithering" on the release of the crime statistics regularly – or at least monthly – according to the recommendations.

"Despite a national Cabinet decision in 2016 to release the SAPS crime statistics quarterly, and the chair of the Portfolio Committee on Police welcoming that announcement, government has continued to release the statistics once a year only," Weyers said.

The revision of the police's system for determining and allocating human resource requirements at the three police stations is at the centre of an Equality Court case brought by the SJC, Equal Education and the Nyanga community police forum.

"In our papers we argue that the current system of resource allocation within the police service discriminates against black and poor communities. The hearing of this matter was finalised earlier this year and judgment has been reserved," he said.

The commission also found that inadequate lighting was a security issue.

"Despite a R40m commitment over three years from Mayor Patricia de Lille in the 2017/2018 budget, in response to draft budget submissions and a demand for more public lighting from the SJC, this amount is insufficient to address the discrimination on the basis of race and poverty reflected in the current allocation of public lighting. The SJC will continue to campaign against this injustice," Weyers said.

Read more on:    police  |  saps  |  city of cape town  |  cape town  |  local government  |  crime

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