Khayelitsha site recommended for a police station seven years ago still stands empty
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Cape Town - Seven years after the Khayelitsha commission of inquiry (KCOI) into policing released its findings and recommendations, the site where a police station was supposed to have been built in Makhaza still stands empty.
In the recent quarter one crime statistics Khayelitsha reported a 32,8% increase in violent crime. It was the unending crime in the area seven years ago that gave rise to a spate of vigilante killings which prompted the inquiry.
Despite the recommendations at the time, residents are still stuck with a severe lack of police resources. Advocacy group the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) said the recent quarter one crime statistics for April to June 2021 were a reflection of a failed policing system.
During a virtual commemoration of the KCOI organised by the SJC yesterday, speakers spoke of the impact of violence and crime in communities and the usefulness of commissions from a grassroots perspective.
SJC said they observed over the years a lack of initiative and implementation from the government (both national and provincial) which directly reflected the current state of crime and violence in Khayelitsha and neighbouring informal settlements.
SJC spokesperson Noma Masemula said it was noteworthy that during the KCOI it was found that two of the Khayelitsha police stations (Harare and Khayelitsha Site B) were significantly understaffed and under-resourced.
"In recognition of this, the national government promised to build a police station for residents of Makhaza; seven years later there is still no police station in sight," said Masemula.
Khayelitsha Development Forum (KDF) chairperson Ndithini Tyhido said he and Bubele Beja made representations to the commission on behalf of the community as represented by the forum.
Tyhido said they were highly disturbed by the lack of implementation of the commission's recommendations by all three spheres of government.
"Khayelitsha's women are still bedevilled by persistent gender-based violence added to the lack of adequate sanitation and ablution facilities. We remain angered by the discriminatory distribution of policing resources in the province, and we demand the development of the Makhaza police station," he said.
Provincial community policing forum (CPF) board chairperson Fransina Lukas said not much improvement since the recommendations were made to improve policing in Khayelitsha.
ANC community safety provincial spokesperson Mesuli Kama said while they agreed the exercise made some very important findings and recommendations, hindsight showed it ended up being wasteful expenditure as the majority of recommendations were ignored.
"In all fairness, the provincial government never had an interest in using the commission to improve police efficiency. To them it was always about cheap political point scoring and undermining the national government," said Kama.
Safety and Security Mayco member JP Smith said the City had significantly addressed the findings in the report that pertain to CCTV as well as adding additional safety measures out of their own initiative.
Smith said, however, it must be noted the majority of the report required intervention in terms of police resources and from the criminal justice system.
Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz said there were still some recommendations that depended on national police for implementation which haven't been attended to, for instance, the policy and process to the allocation of human resources.
"There were some changes in the management and practice in policing in Khayelitsha. It is important these measures are maintained. Unfortunately, with the passage of time, some leadership challenges have arisen in SAPS, and there are still shortages of some key officials, detectives and in the FCS unit."
Criminologist at Stellenbosch University's political science department, Guy Lamb, said the problem that was observed after the drawing of the KCOI was the headquarters of police did not give clear guidance to the Western Cape police on how to take the report forward.
Police spokesperson Novela Potelwa said the police had been working on the recommendations on provincial and national levels.
Potelwa said the construction of a new police station in the area was in the pipeline with much ground and behind-the scenes approvals already undertaken.
She said the approvals and bureaucratic processes were aimed at paving a way for the turning of the sod on site in the next financial year (thereby signalling the commencement of the construction phase).
"While no physical construction has commenced on site, it is encouraging to note all contract-related processes are out of the way as failure to finalise that might impact on delaying the project about to be undertaken," said Potelwa.