The Khayelitsha Commission was appointed by Democratic Leader and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille in August 2012, in response to a complaint of inefficient policing in Khayelitsha, by a group of NGO’s including the Social Justice Coalition (SJC), the Treatment Action Campaign, Ndifuna Ukwazi, Equal Education and the Triangle Project.
The Commission was initially met with opposition, not least by then National Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa, who challenged the Commission’s establishment and powers, first in the Cape Town High Court, and later in the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court found in favour of the Commission, and that it had powers to subpoena members of the police service to testify.
The legal battle delayed proceedings by almost a year. The Commission’s first public hearing took place in January 2014 at Lookout Hill in Khayelitsha. After more than 100 witnesses testified at the commission, Commissioners Kate O’Regan and Vusi Pikoli handed over the 500-page report to Premier Zille at the end of August.
Nine of the 20 recommendations relate directly to the Department of Community Safety (DoCS). Plato said the Commission was useful in that it identified a number of systemic issues, in particular with regard to the oversight of police stations.
Memorandum of Agreement between DoCS and SAPS
A priority for Plato’s department is to prepare a draft Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for discussion with SAPS. “We believe this will significantly contribute towards strengthening our working relationship,” he said.
“The purpose of the MOA will be to clarify and regulate the legislative framework and relationship that exists between DoCS and SAPS with particular reference to dealing with service delivery complaints against policing and conducting unannounced oversight visits to police stations by members of staff within my department.” The Commission found that there was disagreement between DoCS and SAPS over the constitutional role of DoCS.
According to sections 206(3)(a) and 206(5) of the Constitution, a province may –
• monitor police conduct;
• oversee the effectiveness and efficiency of the police service;
• promote good relations between the police and the community;
• assess the effectiveness of visible policing”; and
• investigate … any complaints of police inefficiency.
Task Teams on vigilante killings, liquor licences and youth gangs
Key implementation plans by the province include the establishment of three task teams, to address vigilantism, liquor licences and youth gangs in Khayelitsha.
A spike in vigilante killings (mob violence) in Khayelitsha initially led to the rationale behind setting up the Commission of Inquiry.
The Commission recommended that the DoCS should convene a forum including local school principals, churches and religious intuitions, community policing forums (CPF), NGOs and SAPS manager to develop an integrated public education programme to prevent vengeance attacks and killings. Plato said his department would be contacting the relevant stakeholders and setting up this forum shortly.
A provincial task team will be set up to survey community attitudes to unlicensed liquor outlets to develop policy recommendations based on the findings. Plato said he had consulted Alan Winde, the Western Cape minister of economic opportunities, who will be tasking the Western Cape liquor authority to be a key partner in this research.
Youth gangs are another area of concern highlighted by the Commission. The Commission recommended the DoCS establish a multisectoral task team on youth gangs. Plato identified the Western Cape Department of Social Development, tasked with the implementation of the provincial youth development strategy, as a key partner in this initiative. In additional, he said the Department of Justice and South African Police Service will also have an integral role to play. According to the Commission the plan “should be drawn up and implemented within six months of the date of the report”. Plato said his department would be abiding by this time-frame.
Regarding the approach of SAPS to domestic violence, the Commission recommended a provincial complaints mechanism be implemented. Plato said that the public would be able to raise concerns or complaints regarding SAPS’ enforcement of the Domestic Violence Act, through the Police Ombudsman’s office, which is going to be established “in the next few weeks”.
The Commission was not a court hearing and its recommendations not court orders. How then, will it ensure that its recommendations are implemented? Recommendation 3 of the Commission’s report tasks the Provincial Commissioner to “immediately” establish a monitoring and oversight team to ensure the inefficiencies identified by the report are addressed.
MEC Plato announced that Deon Oosthuizen, director of Monitoring and Evaluation in the DoCS was nominated to serve on this oversight team. Plato said that while the report’s findings related primarily to the work of SAPS, that there was also a role to be played by civil society.
Response of Civil Society
Craig Oosthuizen, from Ndifuna Ukwazi and co-ordinator of the Campaign for Safe Communities, which co-ordinated the complainant organisations, welcomed the DoCS’s plans, and said that they were happy that the department showed this commitment, “we hope they pull through and we see implementation and steps taken”.
Oosthuizen said the Commission also recommended a five-year safety plan to be drawn up for the future. This safety plan was not included in the MEC’s implementation plans. “We hope the DoCS will work with complainant organisations to develop a safety plan with SAPS.”