Cape Town - The SA Police Service (SAPS) must set up a special task team to deal with vigilante violence, the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry heard on Thursday.

“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,” Legal Resource Centre (LRC) lawyer Ncumisa Mayosi said.

Mayosi, for the Social Justice Coalition (SJC), said police should classify mob justice attacks as a separate category of crime.

The institutional culture in the police service needed improvement, as the attitude of officers led to a breakdown of trust between SAPS and residents.

“The commission must find the SAPS units operating in Khayelitsha is not responsive to the community,” said Mayosi.

“They (police) treat them (residents) with disrespect. They treat them discourteously. They treat them with contempt.”

Earlier, 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.”

Hathorn was referring to scores of witnesses, including activists and ordinary Khayelitsha residents, who testified in the inquiry.

Sapa