‘Mthethwa, Plato must go’

By Cobus Coetzee Time of article published Nov 12, 2012

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Cobus Coetzee

CIVIC activist Zackie Achmat has called for heads of ministers to roll in the wake of a damning police task team report exposing serious problems at three police stations in Khayelitsha.

Achmat is the founder of the Social Justice Coalition, the organisation which has led the charge to establish a commission of inquiry into the poor state of policing in Khayelitsha.

The commission has put public hearings on hold after Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa asked the Western Cape High Court last week to stop the commission from going ahead. He denied vigilantism was a problem in the area and said Premier Helen Zille’s appointment of the commission was politically motivated.

Achmat yesterday called on Mthethwa to drop his litigation: “The national minister must co-operate with the inquiry or resign.”

Asked about Community Safety MEC Dan Plato, Achmat said he, too, was to blame for Khayelitsha’s policing woes.

“He has failed to execute his oversight duty as set out by the constitution and he must resign,” said Achmat.

The Social Justice Coalition will approach the high court today to be included as a respondent in Mthethwa’s application.

Achmat said the police’s own investigation and report provided grounds for the inquiry to go ahead.

A police task team was set up in June to investigate the state of policing in Khayelitsha after activists complained and Zille raised the matter with national police commissioner Riah Phiyega.

Its report was marked confidential, but Western Cape provincial police commissioner Arno Lamoer included it in his supporting affidavit to Mthethwa’s application to the court last week.

Khayelitsha residents made 1 022 complaints against police at three police stations between January 2011 and June this year. Almost half dealt with police negligence or misconduct, except at Harare police station where people complained this year about shoddy investigative work.

The task team also found people were arrested and held for 48 hours but never charged.

“This creates the impression that [police] are arresting and detaining suspects without a prerequisite of a reasonable suspicion that the suspects committed the crimes in question,” read the report.

It found 16 cases of domestic violence and assault had been opened against police officers from Khayelitsha police station between January and June 2011, and 16 during the first six months of 2012.

“This is considered an indication that those entrusted with policing of social crimes within the community are, in fact, perpetrators themselves,” read the report.

In general, social contact crimes reported at Khayelitsha police stations have increased by 16.1 percent in 2011/12 and by 17.5 percent during the first quarter of 2012/13.

The report found officers did not take witness statements before case dockets were sent to court and this had led to cases being withdrawn.

Detectives had also inflated the number of arrests for possession of dangerous weapons (pocket knives).

Prosecutors had withdrawn the cases with the remark that the accused did not pose an immediate danger to anybody.

“These arrests account for nearly 50 percent of the case dockets that are opened,” the report noted.

Visible policing had also decreased in the area as resources allocated to sector policing were on the decrease.

Police officers allocated to sector policing were increasingly redeployed to other jobs.

At present, only one police officer and a car are assigned to sector policing in each sector at the Khayelitsha police station.

“This has a negative impact on both the visibility of police in the sectors as well as on the reaction time to attend to complaints,” read the report.

The task team also questioned the police reaction times as records were not properly kept.

Also, 78 incidents of “bundu courts” or vigilante justice had been reported at the three stations between April 2011 and June 2012.

The task team also noted that 65 percent of warrant officer posts at Khayelitsha police stations and 59 percent of sergeant posts for visible policing were vacant.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg, but it’s enough reason for the inquiry to continue,” said Achmat.

Plato said he did not want to be dragged into politicking by commenting on Achmat’s call for him to resign.

Mthethwa’s spokesman, Zweli Mnisi, refused to comment on the report or Achmat’s statement.

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