Angy Peter and Isaac Mbadu are actively involved in the Social Justice Coalition's work to address serious failures of the police in Khayelitsha and surrounding areas, and have been at the forefront of assisting the commission of inquiry into policing in the area, which was appointed by Premier Helen Zille.
The commissioners of the inquiry are retired Constitutional Court judge, Kate O'Regan and the former head of the National Prosecuting Authority, Vusi Pikoli. Next month marks the start of the public hearings, when community members will tell their stories and explain how the relationship between the police and the community has broken down.
Peter and Mbadu are accused of kidnapping and murdering Siphiwo Mbevu, a man they had allegedly been trying to rehabilitate from a life of crime.
The arrest of Peter and Mbadu has come as a blow to the Social Justice Coalition, which actively lobbied and campaigned for an inquiry to take place.
Activist Zackie Achmat, who has worked with Peter over the years, told a press conference in Cape Town on Tuesday that she was an impassioned and dedicated activist. Both Peter and Mbadu deny the charges against them.
Asked whether he believed Peter and Mbadu were being set up by police, Achmat said he could not pre-judge the case. "I certainly could not say whether she had been set up, but I believe in the principle that everyone is innocent until proven guilty," said Achmat.
Another way to live
Mbevu had been working with the Social Justice Coalition in recent months. Peter and Mbadu tried to show him there was another way to live and help others, according to Gavin Silber, coordinator of the coalition.
"Many of the community feel Mr Mbevu has acted with impunity for many years. The allegations were that he regularly steals and assaults people, and he was not very well liked. There have been numerous attempts in the past to kick him out of the community or to kill him." said Silber. "In fact, Angy and Isaac have intervened in the past on several occasions to try and stop that from taking place."
Silber said there were fears the arrest of his colleagues could have been the work of a rogue police officer whom Peter had reported to police for his alleged involvement in crime. But nobody knows if this is true, as they do not yet have details of the allegations against Peter and her partner Mbadu, or know what evidence the state had against them, said Silber.
Police have not yet responded to queries from the Mail & Guardian about the arrests.
The couple appeared in court last week, and a bail hearing has been set for November 1. The state opposed bail during their appearance in court, and the Social Justice Coalition has only managed to get details of the charges gainst them off the charge sheet.
"We have been told that their bail hearing has been expedited, which is very scary, as that is the earliest date she could get," said Silber.