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Cape Town - Better sanitation for informal settlement dwellers could reduce Khayelitsha's crime problems, a local activist told the Khayelitsha commission of inquiry on Friday.
Social Justice Coalition (SJC) activist Phumeza Mlungwana was the last person to take the stand in week one of the commission's hearings on claims of police inefficiency in the area, in Cape Town.
“People would be less vulnerable to crime... if sanitation is sorted and the relationship between sanitation and crime is addressed,” Mlungwana said.
Many people were robbed while walking to communal toilets or to the bushes at night to relieve themselves, she told the commissioners, retired judge Kate O'Regan and advocate Vusi Pikoli.
Mlungwana told the packed hall in Khayelitsha, where the hearings are being held, about her own experiences with crime.
“I've been robbed a couple of time going to school... to the Sanlam Centre,” she said.
Reporting the robberies was futile, as she did not expect the criminals to be arrested or her belongings to be recovered.
Earlier, the commission heard from the relatives of two men killed by vigilantes.
Nomakhuma Bontshi, the aunt of 30-year-old Andile Ntsholo, who was necklaced in May 2012, broke down and dabbed away tears with a blue handkerchief after telling commissioners her story. Necklacing involves placing a car tyre over someone's head and setting it alight.
The night before her nephew was found dead in B-section, residents gathered at her sister's house and told them they would be packing his bags and forcing him out of the area because he was accused of stealing cellphones from residents, Bontshi said. His charred body was found in Khayelitsha the next morning.
“The police arrived at our house the next morning and asked us who could have done this and we said we don't know.”
She said it was the first and last time they heard from police.
“We never got around to find out everything from the police. All I know is God will reveal who did this.”
Norman Arendse, for the police, asked her why she had not contacted the police when her nephew's neighbours threatened to evict him.
“Because the residents were so angry.... We thought even the police wouldn't be able to do anything about it,” she answered.
Harare resident Mzoxolo Tame was the next to take the stand. Tame's cousin Xolisile was killed in January last year after allegedly being caught breaking into a house.
Tame told the commission of his encounter with the investigating officer, shortly before his cousin's body was identified. He described the officer as rude, dismissive and disrespectful.
When asked what the detective told him, he quoted the officer.
“He said, I quote: 'The laaitie (youth) was caught with his body halfway through the window of a house and he was moered (beaten up)',” said Tame.
A woman, her son, and another man were arrested and later released on bail. Tame said he had yet to hear from Harare police how far the case had progressed.
He told O'Regan and Pikoli how he felt about the attitude of police officers in Harare in general.
“They don't understand their fundamental responsibility... They think they are doing the community a favour,” Tame said.
“Their attitude is not that of public servants.”
The commission was set up to probe allegations of police inefficiency in Khayelitsha following several mob justice killings, allegedly as a result of residents' frustrations with police inaction.