‘No dockets lost in Khayelitsha’

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IOL  Khayelitsha SAPS charge office Independent Newspapers Inside the Khayelitsha SAPS charge office. File picture: Obed Zilwa

Cape Town - Detectives at the Lingelethu police station have never lost a crime docket, the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry heard on Friday.

Despite testimony to the contrary by Khayelitsha residents, the station's detective head Barend Swart testified that his team was “very good” and competent when handling investigations.

“There was never a docket lost at Lingelethu West,” Swart said.

“Some (dockets) are kept at some prosecutor's office, then we find it. It was never lost,” he said in response to questions from advocate Thabani Masuku, acting for the police.

His evidence contradicts that of Khayelitsha Magistrate's Court senior prosecutor Rochelle Harmse, who last week testified that she was often forced to withdraw cases because dockets were not arriving at court.

Swart said: “We've got two people in court to hand over all new dockets.”

He, however, later conceded that there were reports about dockets not arriving in court on time.

“I can't make excuses. There are dockets that the investigating officer didn't take to court,” Swart told commissioners Kate O'Regan and Vusi Pikoli.

Last month alone, detectives opened over 600 dockets at the station.

Asked about gang violence between high school pupils, which Khayelithsa residents say is rife, Swart said this was being adequately addressed by his team.

“I think all the cases have been solved,” he said.

The first fight between the Vatos and Vuras gangs were “over a lady”, he said.

“Then they fight over everything.”

This included fights over designer clothing.

Swart said his officers were often commended for their good work.

He related a story about a gang of robbers who targeted a bus full of German tourists.

“We made a couple of arrests. The German people, they said the quick response of the police is better than in their own country,” Swart said.

Earlier, the station commander Michael Reitz denied that policing in the Cape Town township was dysfunctional.

“I don't agree that there's a crisis in policing. Policing is going on a daily basis,” Reitz said as he was cross-examined by Peter Hathorn, for NGO the Social Justice Coalition (SJC).

Hathorn referred to several assessments done by the provincial police inspectorate which painted a bleak picture of policing in Reitz's precinct.

“From 2009/10 1/8financial year 3/8 to 2010/11 there was a radical drop in your efficiency rate... to 56.18 percent,” Hathorn said.

During the same period, the station's ranking dropped from number 58 out of the province's 149 police stations to number 106.

Reitz took over command at Lingelethu West during the same period.

“I put it to you that your station hasn't thrived under you,” Hathorn said.

Reitz disagreed.

“With what is given to me according to functional posts, I'm able to address the problems and cope,” he said.

The assessments noted poor record keeping at Lingelethu West, as well as the duties of officers not being accounted for.

Reitz insisted the assessments were not a fair reflection of what was happening on the ground.

Hathorne asked Reitz to explain an apparent lack of disciplinary steps against errant officers, which was akin to “defeating the ends of justice”.

“That's not fair... if all these things were done why was there no disciplinary action taken against me,” he answered.

The commission was set up by premier Helen Zille after residents lodged several complaints about police inefficiency, which was the apparent cause of a spate of mob justice killings in the area.

Proceedings continue on Monday.

Sapa



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