Khayelitsha inquiry gets the go-ahead

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Khayelitsha Commission_6695 DONE INLSA A jubilant crowd celebrates outside the High Court after hearing the news that Nathi Mtethwa lost his appeal to stop the Khayelitsha inquiry. Picture: Jason Boud

Cape Town - A month and a half - that’s how long it will take the commission of inquiry set up to probe alleged police inefficiency in Khayelitsha to get public hearings restarted, said commission secretary Amanda Dissel.

But all eyes will be on Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa this week as he decides whether to appeal the Western Cape High Court’s judgment allowing the inquiry to continue.

The commission was established by Premier Helen Zille in August to probe allegations of police inefficiency and the alleged “breakdown in relations” between the community and the police in Khayelitsha. The commission was suspended a month later, pending the outcome of the court proceedings.

On Monday, Judges Jeanette Traverso and James Yekiso concurred that Mthethwa’s application for an urgent interdict against the commission be dismissed.

The Social Justice Coalition (SJC), which called for the establishment of the commission, hailed the ruling as a victory for people fed-up with crime in South Africa. The SJC’s Zackie Achmat said the court’s decision was a victory for all South Africans.

“The people of Khayelitsha and South Africa have been vindicated,” Achmat said. “The issue with the police is a systematic issue, it does not just relate to one or two rotten apples.”

Judge Traverso dismissed the application with cost to the first, fourth to seventh and ninth respondents - which include Zille, retired Judge Catherine O’Regan, who heads the commission, and advocate Vusi Pikoli, secretary to the commission and the SJC.

In the majority judgment, Judges Yekiso and Traverso said: “The premier made her decision without the benefit of any substantive input from SAPS despite repeatedly having requested the provincial commissioner to provide comment on the complaint and having granted the national commissioner no less than two extensions of time within which to provide their responses and comments.

“Thus, the applicants in the instances of the provincial commissioner and the national commissioner failed to provide the comment requested either on the complaints or the best method thought appropriate to deal with the complaints.”

The judges added that Zille’s argument for the establishment of the commission of inquiry was “compelling”.

“The information before the premier at the time provided a rational basis for her decision to establish the commission. Thus, in my view, the applicants’ challenge on the legality of the commission, on the basis of rationality, is untenable.”

Zille’s spokesman, Zak Mbhele, said: “We are very pleased with the judgment. The commission can now go ahead with its work unhindered so that the concerns of the community in Khayelitsha can be addressed.”

Commission members will meet on Tuesday to map a way forward. Dissel said the commission would need at least a month and a half to prepare before public hearings resume.

Mthethwa’s spokesman Zweli Mnisi said the minister’s lawyers were studying the judgment and would “determine, at a later stage whether to appeal the ruling or not”.

Achmat said it would be “foolish” of Mthethwa to appeal.

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Cape Argus

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