Cape Town - The lawyer for Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has attacked the constitutionality of Premier Helen Zille’s decision to appoint a commission of inquiry into alleged police inefficiency in Khayelitsha.
Advocate Norman Arendse, who represented Mthethwa, the national and provincial commissioner of police and other police officers, approached the Western Cape High Court to seek an interdict to suspend the inquiry.
Zille set up the commission in August to probe allegations of police inefficiency in Khayelitsha and the alleged “breakdown in relations” between the community and the police.
The commission, which is headed by retired Judge Catherine O’Regan and advocate Vusi Pikoli, was to hold public hearings from November 12 to December 14. A full report was due on February 24, 2013.
But the commission has since been suspended pending the outcome of the court proceedings.
Arendse said Zille did not apply her mind when she established the commission, claiming that she was driven by media reports instead of community complaints to launch the inquiry.
He said eight complaints were lodged and dealt with. “These complaints have all been dealt with by the police,” Arendse said.
He argued further that the Women’s Legal Centre said the criminal justice system including the police, metro police, prosecutors and the courts were responsible for the community’s lack of faith in the system.
Arendse said people were upset when suspects walked the streets shortly after their arrest and cases took four to five years before they were finalised.
“What purpose is a commission of inquiry, only into the police, going to serve?” Arendse asked. He said the commission recognised their limitations which included that they could not summons National Prosecuting Authority head Rodney de Kock and Justice Department regional head Hishaam Mohamed.
“So what do they do? They write letters urging them to co-operate. But in this case they summons the police. That constitutes an intrusion of a separation of powers,” Arendse said.
Advocate Sean Rosenberg for Zille argued that pressure had mounted on Zille to do something about the increasing number of vigilante attacks in Khayelitsha this year.
The spate of vigilante attacks was “symptomatic” of the complaints calling for the commission, Rosenberg said. “By mid-2012 there was increasing pressure on the premier from the affected pressure groups that were mobilising support,” he said. These groups included the Social Justice Coalition, the Women’s Legal Centre and the Triangle Project.
On Thursday, about 100 people protested outside court, singing and dancing in support of the inquiry.
A full Bench including Deputy Judge President Jeanette Traverso, Judge James Yekiso and Judge Vincent Saldanha have reserved judgment.