/ 18 March 2014

Cops downplay ‘assumptions’ of Khayelitsha policing report

The Metro Police in Cape Town are being investigated after a cellphone video of an assault of a blind busker surfaced.
The Metro Police in Cape Town are being investigated after a cellphone video of an assault of a blind busker surfaced.

A damning report into policing in Khayelitsha was downplayed by one of its authors at the Khayelitsha commission of inquiry on Tuesday.

Brigadier Hermias van Zyl was part of a task team sent by national police commissioner Riah Phiyega to Khayelitsha in July 2012 to investigate complaints of police inefficiency in Khayelitsha.

"They [the commissioners] must treat this report on face value," van Zyl testified.

The report contained "assumptions" from the task team based on "observations" during a five day "fact-finding mission" to the three police stations in Khayelitsha.

"They [commissioners] must not use this report as a yardstick to actually come to a conclusion that there is poor service delivery," said Van Zyl.

The report highlighted, among other things, a low conviction rate for serious crimes in Khayelitsha, a high number of cases being withdrawn due to dockets not arriving at court on time, and police involvement in crimes not being adequately investigated.

Van Zyl argued this did not mean one could make a general statement that there was police inefficiency in the area.

"What we have found was not so serious. If we found serious inefficiency we would not have left the stations as is," he said.

The task team report was sent to Phiyega so she could institute a broader investigation into policing in the area.

However, this investigation was halted as a result of the establishment of the Khayelitsha commission of inquiry.

"The broader intervention team was never constituted," the senior police officer said.

Van Zyl said the situation at Khayelitsha was not unique as many other police stations in the country faced similar problems.

This included staff shortages. "If you visit the three stations, you find 30% of personnel that is supposed to be there is not there," he said.

This was due to not only absenteeism, but police officers being away on training.

Van Zyl explained the low conviction rate, including a conviction rate of under 3% for murder, was due to witnesses not coming forward.

The task team report was originally classified but became public after Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa tried to stop the establishment of the commission.

After Mthethwa lost his Constitutional Court bid, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille set up the commission – which started sitting in late January this year.

Commission evidence leaders and legal representatives acting for complainant organisation, the Social Justice Coalition, referred to the task team report while questioning several witnesses during the hearings. – Sapa