Public hearings of the Khayelitsha commission of inquiry concluded on Thursday after parties made their final oral submissions.
The complainant organisation – the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) – asked the commission to find that there was indeed police inefficiency in the Cape Town township.
“The commission must find the SAPS units operating in Khayelitsha are not responsive to the community,” said Ncumisa Mayosi, for the SJC. “They [police] treat them [residents] with disrespect. They treat them discourteously. They treat them with contempt.”
Norman Arendse, for the police, urged commissioners Kate O’Regan and Vusi Pikoli not to make a finding that police were ineffective.
“We would have an issue with a finding that police in Khayelitsha are incompetent,” Arendse said. “We would take issue with a finding that vigilante attacks or bundu courts or street justice killings are as a direct result of police inefficiency.”
Arendse conceded there were shortcomings in policing in Khayelitsha. He suggested a summit be convened by Western Cape police commissioner Arno Lamoer to address the problems.
“The provincial commissioner will have to arrange a summit here in Khayelitsha for the police and those roleplayers involved in this commission of inquiry,” Arendse said.
“The agenda must be the shortcomings identified in the commission of inquiry that have remained unattended.”
Arendse said there had already been sincere attempts to fix policing problems in the sprawling Cape Town township.
Police also dispute claims by the SJC and several residents who believe there was a breakdown of trust between the community and the police. “I don’t think the evidence before the commission warrants a finding of a breakdown,” Arendse said.
The SJC, on the other hand, argue a breakdown of trust contributed to the spate of mob justice killings in the area. “The complainants recommend that as a matter of urgency or priority that a task team must be formed by SAPS to formulate a strategy to deal with vigilantism … focusing on the prevention of these incidents,” Mayosi said.
She said police should classify mob justice attacks as a separate category of crime.
The institutional culture in the police needed improvement, as the attitude of officers led to a breakdown of trust with residents. Mayosi’s colleague Pete Hathorn told the commission the spate of vigilante violence in Khayelitsha was proof that residents did not trust the police.
“If one looks at the extent of the vigilante violence … that doesn’t occur where policing is taking place effectively,” Hathorn said.
“It’s clear from the pattern of evidence … that people in Khayelitsha do not feel confident that if they take a thief to police that it will be dealt with effectively.”
The commission has until July 11 to submit a report – which will contain findings and recommendations – to Western Cape Premier Helen Zille.
Zille established the commission after the SJC complained that police inefficiency was leading to an increase in mob justice killings. Former police minister Nathi Mthethwa resisted the move and approached the courts to quash the commission. However, he lost his legal bid in the Constitutional Court in October last year.
The police have since co-operated with the commission. – Sapa