Cape Town -
In three years, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) investigated close to 130 criminal complaints against police officers in Khayelitsha – half of the complaints lodged last year.
Despite a rise in crimes allegedly committed by police, Ipid recommended action only 11 times last year, between 2012 and 2013, when there were 76 complaints against officers, the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry heard on Wednesday.
Acting head of the directorate, Thabo Leholo, acknowledged before the commission that there could be more cases, but that they were not referred to them.
According to documents the directorate gave the commission, between 2010 and 2011, 19 criminal complaints against police officers were sent to Ipid to investigate.
Between 2011 and 2012, 32 cases were referred to the investigative directorate.
Leholo told the commission that the bulk of the cases had been referred back to the police to investigate further.
He said many were “managerial” matters not under the Ipid’s mandate.
Advocate Peter Hathorn SC, for the Social Justice Coalition and other NGOs, said according to a task team report by the late Sean Tshabalala who was a directorate commissioner, 93 cases of “police-initiated crimes” at the Harare Police Station in December 2011 had been withdrawn due to outstanding blood alcohol reports and inadequate investigations.
He put it to Leholo the “litany” of complaints were eventually withdrawn because they were referred to fellow officers to investigate, instead of having been referred to the directorate.
But Leholo said management at the station was under no obligation to refer cases to the directorate.
Hathorn put it to him that the report also stated 42 pending cases against police in that same period were being prolonged unnecessarily.
The report also said that pending cases such as possession of drugs were not properly investigated and were still outstanding five months later.
There were also outstanding arrest warrants that investigating officers neglected to issue for months.
There was also a conviction that was never registered, Hathorn said.
Hathorn said it was clear that the cases were inadequately investigated.
“It is quite clear that there are very substantial deficiencies in investigation of these police-initiated crimes.
“Would you concur with that conclusion?” Hathorn put it to Leholo.
Provincial Community Safety department head Gilbert Lawrence told the commission that the department’s oversight role had been stonewalled by the police.
It was unable to conduct unannounced inspections of police stations and could not speak to station commanders without permission from provincial police commissioner Arno Lamoer.
This defeated the purpose of the department’s oversight role, Lawrence said.
Lawrence said that at one point Lamoer was unhappy about the definition of vigilante killings and asked Community Safety MEC Dan Plato not to mention it publicly.
Advocate Norman Arendse SC, for the police, put it to Lawrence that the department was confused about its role and suggested that it was lazy.
“You have completely neglected the community; your focus is entirely on the police. At the end of the day the police’s job is to protect the community and when they fail, the community will complain. It is your job to pick up those complaints and you have failed to do so,” Arendse said.