POLICE Minister Nathi Mthethwa and head of the SAPS Riah Phiyega were concerned about how police in Khayelitsha had dealt with some cases and were prepared to apologise to families of the victims.
Advocate Norman Arendse SC gave this undertaking to the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry yesterday. He represents the police at the inquiry.
Arendse’s comments came after activist Zackie Achmat, co-director of Ndifuna Ukwazi, told the inquiry he wanted the police to apologise to the families of victims of crime because they had failed them.
Arendse said his clients were prepared to apologise.
He said Mthethwa and Phiyega were deeply concerned about what had happened.
“If it is found that the police had a hand in that, they are prepared to offer those an apology,” Arendse said.
Achmat cited cases in Khayelitsha where the police had demonstrated carelessness in their work.
The first was that of activist Lona Mpofana who was raped and beaten to death at a tavern.
Achmat said Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) activists had marched from the tavern where she had been attacked to the home of the alleged perpetrator.
“There was a lot of anger in the community and people, even those within our own organisation, wanted to take the law into their own hands,” he said.
Achmat said Mpofana’s family had been frustrated over a period of two years by the investigating officer’s failure to inform them about the case.
The other, Achmat said, was the case of Nandipha Makeke who was gang-raped and killed in 2006.
Makeke’s family, especially her elderly father, had been hurt by the lack of progress in the case.
“If we had not gotten the taxi drivers to arrest (the suspects), the police would never have come to do it,” Achmat said.
There were more than 20 postponements in the case caused mainly by dockets that had not been taken to court or DNA reports that were not yet available.
It took a complaint from the TAC for the investigating officer to act.
The inquiry also heard testimony from a retired policeman who slammed the “dysfunctional” state of policing in Khayelitsha and reported ill-discipline, high absenteeism figures and poor management.
Glenn Schooling is a former deputy provincial commissioner. Schooling wrote a report with Martin Leamy, a retired senior police officer who held the rank of lieutenant-colonel, in which they described the state of the three police stations in Khayelitsha – Harare, Lingelethu West and Site B – as dysfunctional.
The report was based on documents supplied by the police. In their analysis, Schooling and Leamy said there were still documents outstanding.
“The basic command and control elements of first- and second-level inspections at Harare SAPS are not functioning effectively. This represents a sweeping pattern between all three Khayelitsha SAPS stations, of ineffective supervision by the responsible commanders,” Schooling and Martin said in their conclusion.
“Cumulatively, this represents a dysfunctional overall picture of the greater Khayelitsha area, with SAPS commanders not able to effectively have sight of the factual situation their respective stations are operating under.”
They found that because of the number of disciplinary cases, officers were ill-disciplined.
Schooling said police officers, particularly detectives, were inadequately trained, and members of the visible policing unit were also not properly trained to deal with domestic violence.
Officers were often absent, leaving limited personnel to deal with a mountain of cases.