Cape Town - Grave concerns over the failure of Khayelitsha police to do their work are justified, Social Justice Coalition advocate Ncumisa Mayosi said on Thursday.
Ncumisa outlined her case during opening statements before the Khayelitha commission of inquiry in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, into allegations of police inefficiency.
“During the course of these hearings we will set out to place evidence before the commission which shows beyond any shadow of a doubt that the community's complaints are justified,” she said, speaking in Xhosa.
A list of why there was a breakdown in trust between residents and police was presented.
“Members of the Khayelitsha community routinely experience violations of their constitutional rights in their dealings with police,” Mayosi said.
Focus would be placed on how women and girls bore the brunt of violent crimes in the area.
“Girls and women are often beaten and raped whilst walking to and from communal toilets or fetching water from communal taps close to their homes; while domestic abuse poses a threat to women in their own homes,” Mayosi said.
The police's inability to protect residents from harm had led to an “erosion” of trust and faith in the SA Police Service.
“The brutal acts of vigilantism that have claimed dozens of lives in recent years are a shocking end result of this erosion.”
Residents would testify about how the lack of police visibility had made it possible for criminals to continue terrorising them.
Mayosi emphasised that the aim of the commission was not to conduct a witchhunt.
“We are here to find solutions... this is not an attack on police,” she said.
“It is not about pointing fingers at specific officers and calling for them to lose their jobs.”
Earlier, evidence leader Thembela Sidaki told the commission proof would be provided that court cases against criminals were routinely withdrawn due to poor police investigations.
Sidaki was the first to give the commission - led by retired judge Kate O'Regan and advocate Vusi Pikoli - his opening remarks.
A full witness list would be made available soon, but Sidaki said it would include experts on crime data, community organisations, victims of crime, and their families.
“We shall also focus on children and the youth, who are vulnerable in society,” he said.
“We shall lead evidence of sexual violence and domestic violence.”
The commission began its hearings after two days of inspections in loco.
The commission visited crime hotspots and police stations on Tuesday and Wednesday in a bid to see first hand the circumstances the victims of crime live in, and the conditions residents and police are subjected to.
Western Cape premier Helen Zille established the inquiry in August 2012 after receiving numerous complaints about police inefficiency in the Khayelitsha area.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa opposed the decision to set up the inquiry, but this was dismissed by the Constitutional Court in October 2013.