Durban - Western Cape Community Safety MEC Dan Plato says a suggestion that all police in Khayelitsha be trained to speak Xhosa is “a positive finding” aimed at building relations between the police and the public.
The recommendation was one of a number in the final report of the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry released earlier this week. The suggestion had a mixed reaction from police, police union Sapu, and other officials. Sapu said deploying only officers who spoke Xhosa to Khayelitsha was discriminatory and unconstitutional.
But referring to the report, Plato said:“Census 2011 establishes that Khayelitsha is ethnically and linguistically homogenous with 98.7 percent of the population describing themselves as black/African and 89.8 percent specifying Xhosa as their home language.
“The same logic should apply at other police stations too, for example, those servicing predominantly Afrikaans or English-speaking residents. This is by no means a rigid direction but a positive finding aimed at building relations and improving communication.”
The report recommended that the police management provide language training to all members who did not speak Xhosa, and also ensure that officers placed in Khayelitsha were able to speak Xhosa.
Plato said the language barrier could make the difference between assisting someone in a crisis and being unable to help them; between conviction and acquittal, or between feeling safe and unsafe.
He said Xhosa was one of the three official languages in the Western Cape.
Sapu should remember that the police had to subscribe to the Use of Official Languages Act.
Asking the police and relevant departments to develop a strategy to implement the recommendation before criticising it, Plato added: “The ultimate aim is to improve the relations between the public and the police and to ensure a better police service for all.”