/ 13 December 2012

Peter says police are trying to frame her

Outside the Western Cape High Court
Outside the Western Cape High Court

Angy Peter, one of the main witnesses at the Khayelitsha commission of inquiry into policing if the Western Cape High Court rules it can go ahead, claims police are trying to frame and intimidate her after they raided her house for drugs on Wednesday.

The police could find no drugs, claimed Gavin Silber, coordinator at the civic organisation Social Justice Coalition, who was present at her home. Peter was still taken down to the police station for questioning. 

"On first attempt they came without a search warrant and then arrived back within half an hour with one signed by a magistrate. I managed to get to her house pretty quickly. They looked like members of crime intelligence and they came in an unmarked white bakkie," said Silber. "Later 10 officers returned to do the search. We made sure someone was in the room with them when they searched. It seems like they are trying to harass her."

Peter has dealt with all the complaints, and collected affidavits against police over the years on behalf of the SJC. Before she helped found the organisation, Peter worked for the Treatment Action Campaign, living openly with her HIV status. A dedicated community support worker, she is known to be impassioned by her work in Khayelitsha.

Her friends and colleagues were stunned in October when police arrested her for murder and kidnapping. She was detained at Pollsmoor Prison for more than two months without any evidence being provided against her. Peter and her partner Isaac Mbadu, who also work for the Social Justice Coalition, were accused of murdering Rowen Du Preez. 

While the murder victim was believed to have died after he had a tyre placed around his neck and was burnt to death, both Peter and Mbadu have claimed their innocence. Peter is said by community members to have twice saved his life from vigilantes who wanted to kill him. 

Unanswered questions
The Mail & Guardian sent a set of questions to police media liason last month about whether there was evidence gathered against her in the murder case, but the questions went unanswered.

When the police arrived to raid her house this week, Peter wouldn't let them in until they had a search warrant.

"This time I am much more weary after having spent so much time in prison for something I didn't do," said Peter, who is six months' pregnant and suffers from severe asthma. "I asked them where their search warrant was and they had to go away to get one."

Peter said her time in prison was "hell", and although she was sick with asthma, she was not allowed to spend much time in the prison hospital.

The Khayelitsha commission of inquiry, which was set up by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille in August, is the subject of a court dispute which began on Thursday this week. A ruling is still to be made on the case. 

Outside the Western Cape High Court, hundreds of people from Khayelitsha and other townships gathered to oppose Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa’s application to halt the commission of inquiry. It was set up to investigate allegations of inefficiency by the police, and a breakdown in relations between the community and the police.

Vigilante violence
The court proceedings continued throughout the day with arguments being heard for Mthethwa, and opposing views heard from representatives for civil society organisations and Zille. In past years, the organisations have complained that action should be taken against poor policing in the area, which has led to a marked increase in vigilante killing. 

Zille has alleged Mthethwa was unresponsive when she tried to consult him about setting up the commission of inquiry. As many as 18 people are known to have been killed this year in vigilante violence in Khayelitsha, but the Social Justice Coalition believes the numbers are really much higher and concealed from the public.

The commission headed by Justice Catherine O’Regan and the former head of the National Prosecuting Authority Vusi Pikoli was set up in August, but public hearings at which Peter would have given testimony were halted by Mthethwa's court application. 

Suspicion around the motivation behind the arrest of Peter on the murder charges caused her neighbours and colleagues to converge on the court to give her moral support for her three bail hearings. 

The Social Justice Coalition said the community referred to the victim as "Rowan" and believes his birth name is Siphiwo Mbevu, a man who was allegedly known to steal goods in the community. 

In August, Peter opened a case against a Mfuleni police officer for having what she suspected was a corrupt relationship with "Rowan". The police officer was allegedly buying stolen goods from him. The M&G supplied the police media liaison with the case number and asked them to investigate what had happened to the case.

"We can confirm that all aspects regarding this case are being investigated," said Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut of Western Cape police media centre in October. "The alleged corrupt relationship which the police officer had with the deceased is also being investigated, and only once the investigation has been finalised, can we offer you comment."

A Mfuleni resident, who spoke to the M&G on condition of anonymity, said many of the residents had been on the scene when "Rowan" was accused of stealing a television set belonging to Peter two months ago. 

"Rowan admitted he had taken Angy's plasma tv, but he said that he was working with a policeman, who bought the stuff. We listened when he made a call to this policeman and told him he had drugs for him. The policeman came to fetch him and he was followed back to the Mfuleni police station."

"Angy is the face of the campaign for the commission," Silber told the M&G at the time of her arrest. "There are many people who stand to benefit from her not being around."

Now fears for Peter's safety are again being discussed by the Social Justice Coalition, but because she has to report each week to the Mfulni police station, it is unsure whether she will again be moved to a safe house.