/ 14 January 2013

Mthethwa fails to stop Zille’s police inquiry

Mthethwa Fails To Stop Zille's Police Inquiry

On Monday the Western Cape High Court announced its dismissal of Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa's urgent interdict against the commission set up by Premier Helen Zille last year.

The commission – headed by advocate Vusi Pikoli and retired Constitutional Court Judge Catherine O’Reagan – was tasked with investigating allegations of police inefficiency and the breakdown of the relationship of the police after public lobbying by organisations such as Equal Education, the Social Justice Coalition and the Treatment Action Campaign.

In response to arguments by advocates representing Zille, the Social Justice Coalition and the commission itself last year, Mthethwa's legal team argued Zille's decision to appoint the commission would have an impact on the independence of the South African Police Service.

Advocate Peter Hawthorne, acting for the coalition, on Monday told the court Mthethwa's legal team failed to prove the commission would cause irreparable harm to the SAPS.

The commission was meant to hold public hearings from November 12 to December 14, which was since suspended pending the outcome of Mthethwa's application.

Last year the M&G reported that there had been more than 18 vigilante killings in Khayelitsha in 2012 – which activists related to the community’s lack of trust in the police’s ability to maintain order – as well as a spate of gang violence in the area.

"The rationale behind the setting up of such a commission, which, at a strategic level, only focuses on the South African Police Service and not the Western Cape metro police, is suspicious if not questionable," Mthethwa said in November after the commission was set up.

"Despite the engagements we held with the premier over the past weeks, it is evident that she is determined to continue with the commission by hook or crook, which leaves us with no option but to challenge the matter through the legal framework," said Mthethwa when he challenged the validity of the commission.

Following Mthethwa’s urgent interdict in November, many residents of Khayelitsha and activists – including Social Justice Coalition founder Zackie Achmat and its workers – gathered outside the Western Cape High Court last year to protest against the police minister's attempt to stop the commission of inquiry.

Outside the court on Monday residents took part in the “people’s commission of inquiry into crime in Khayelitsha” where they shared stories about their experiences with the police in the township, and Achmat used a loudspeaker to call witnesses to the "stand". –  Additional reporting by Sapa