Cape Town - The families of murder victims in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, suffer further injustices when police treat them poorly, the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry heard on Tuesday.
“What we have to take seriously is how the police treat people,” non-governmental organisation Ndifuna Ukwazi's (Dare to Know) director Zackie Achmat said in his testimony.
“In all the cases I will raise and discuss, it is always us who have to go to the police. It is rarely... that the police come to us.”
Achmat gave examples of three women murdered in Khayelitsha, namely Lorna Mlofana in 2003, Nandipha Makeke in 2005, and Zoliswa Nkonyana in 2006.
Mlofana was an HIV/Aids educator in the area and went to a tavern at the end of the year for a few drinks. She was raped and when her attackers found out she was HIV positive, was kicked to death.
Achmat said the police failed to use a sexual assault kit because her body looked like she had been run over by a truck when she arrived at a hospital.
“What comes afterwards was horror and a travesty.”
He said police failed to keep her family informed about what was happening in court, and it was only through the Treatment Action Campaign's efforts and relationship with the station commander that they were told what was going on.
Advocate Peter Hathorne asked his witness what he thought of provincial police commissioner Arno Lamoer's affidavit, in which he stated that the task team had looked at the case and noted the conviction and sentencing of two men for the crimes.
Achmat replied that police had never informed Mlofana's family of a subsequent appeal by the perpetrators, which resulted in a lighter conviction.
“The first time my colleagues knew about this was when that person was out on the street,” he said.
He also took offence at Lamoer's stance, in his affidavit, on Makeke's case. In it he stated that the task team found her case had been properly investigated. Makeke was raped by a gang of boys and killed in a toilet.
“Never once did the police go visit the family and say this is the situation,” Achmat said.
Zoliswa Nkonyana lived openly as a black lesbian in Khayelitsha. She was killed because of her sexual orientation and nine men, mostly juveniles, were arrested.
“A policeman helped some perpetrators escape from the Khayelitsha court. What I'd like to know is what happened to that policeman,” Achmat said.
“That's something that people face in Khayelitsha on a daily basis.”
Achmat recommended that before any recommendations by the inquiry could be implemented, the police first had to apologise to the women's families for what had gone wrong.
The commission was set up by Western Cape premier Helen Zille to probe accusations by civil society formations that police inaction was leading to an increase in mob justice killings in the area.
The Social Justice Coalition alleged police inefficiency was leading to criminals running rampant in the sprawling township, and residents being forced to take the law into their own hands.
The commission's activities were delayed for some time when Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa tried to have the inquiry scrapped. Mthethwa lost his legal bid to stop the commission in the Constitutional Court in October last year.
The first phase of hearings was expected to end on February 21.