Court Watching Briefs: 283 cases struck from Western Cape court rolls due to police inefficiencies

Wynberg Magistrate’s Court was one the list of courts being monitored across the Western Cape. Picture: African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Wynberg Magistrate’s Court was one the list of courts being monitored across the Western Cape. Picture: African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Published Sep 11, 2023


The second and third quarter reports of the Western Cape Department of Police Oversight and Community Safety’s Court Watching Brief (CWB) Unit have been released.

The report revealed that between October 2022 and March 2023, a staggering 283 cases at 33 courts linked to 82 police stations across the Western Cape were struck off the court roll due to South African Police Service (SAPS) inefficiencies.

During the third quarter, there were 153 cases at 15 courts covering 40 police stations, and during the fourth quarter, there were 130 cases at 18 courts covering 42 police stations.

The third quarter report also revealed a post-monitoring brief of 84 murder cases at 20 police stations.

The Court Watching Briefing Unit stats. Picture: WCG

This is 33 fewer murder cases than the 117 dockets requested from the SAPS.

The CWB Unit is an initiative of the department to enhance its ability to perform oversight of the police as mandated by Section 206(3) of the Constitution.

It said both reports have been shared with the SAPS.

The courts that were monitored are located in Khayelitsha, Bishop Lavis, Blue Downs, Strand, Philippi, Mitchells Plain, Bellville, Wynberg, Athlone, Goodwood, Kuilsriver, Atlantis, Malmesbury, Paarl, Vredenburg, Ceres, Clanwilliam, Vredendal, Oudtshoorn, George, Mossel Bay, Plettenberg Bay, and Knysna.

The Court Watching Briefing Unit stats. Picture: WCG

The police stations attached to these cases are: Kuilsriver, Brackenfell, Kraaifontein, Ravensmead, Vredendal, Lutzville, Doring Bay, Clanwilliam, Graafwater, Citrusdal, Lambert’s Bay, Knysna, George, Conville, Pacaltsdorp, Thembalethu, Oudtshoorn, Grootbrak Rivier, Manenberg, Athlone, Philippi, Hout Bay, Steenberg, Wynberg, Claremont, Philippi East, Diep River, Mbekweni, Paarl East, Franschhoek, Klapmuts, Mitchells Plain, Lentegeur, Khayelitsha, Harare, Gugulethu, Samora Machel, Nyanga, KwaNonqaba, Da Gamaskop, Lwandle, Strand, Mfuleni, Kleinvlei, Plettenberg Bay, KwaNokuthula, Goodwood, Delft, Lansdowne, Grassy Park, Malmesbury, and Riebeek Wes.

The third quarter police stations linked to the monitoring of the murder cases are: Athlone, Bishop Lavis, Conville, De Doorns, Gugulethu, Harare, Khayelitsha, Kleinvlei, Kraaifontein, Lingelethu West, Manenberg, Mfuleni, Mitchells Plain, Nyanga, Philippi, Philippi East, Riebeek-Wes, Robertson, Steenberg, and Thembalethu.

Of the 283 cases struck from the court roll, 77 are gender-based violence (GBV)-related cases, while 206 are cases related to assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm (GBH), murder, aggravated robbery, possession and dealing in drugs, and possession of firearms and ammunition.

In relation to the 77 GBV cases, 22 cases were withdrawn as dockets were not filed with a court, and 48 were withdrawn due to an incomplete investigation.

The Court Watching Briefing Unit stats. Picture: WCG

The department said the top three police stations over the two quarters in all 283 matters docketed were not at court: Knysna (six), Vredendal (four), and George (three).

The top three police stations over the two quarters in all 283 matters with the highest numbers of incomplete investigations are: Lutzville (12), Kraaifontein (eight), and Kuilsriver (six).

Western Cape MEC for Police Oversight and Community Safety, Reagan Allen said the statistics painted a very grim picture, which deeply disturbs him.

"These statistics paint a very grim picture, which deeply disturbs me. More so, these are real people who have been dismally failed by the South African Police Service and the entire criminal system.

"What is further alarming is that these are the cases that we have monitored, which would suggest that there could be many similar matters that are also being thrown out of court. The indictment is damning and clear.

"Investigators work under immense strain, and at times they each sit with well over 200 dockets. This failure does not, however, justify their inability to comply with their oath and fulfil their constitutional mandate," Allen said.

He said he will engage the Western Cape Police Commissioner, Lieutenant General Thembisile Patekile, as he needs to establish whether the officers that have failed citizens will be held accountable.

"I will not sit by and continue to allow this type of failure to persist within the SAPS. The pain, suffering, and injustice that the victims have to endure have to be addressed, and there should be recourse for the victims.

We have made a number of recommendations based on these findings. One of them is that the SAPS should develop an improvement plan to minimise the number of cases that are struck off the roll due to their inefficiencies," Allen said.

He said he will also be engaging the Western Cape Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), advocate Nicolette Bell, to gain insight into what has to improve to ensure these types of results are not repeated.

"I am aware that there is a standard operating procedure between investigators and prosecutors, and it has to be ascertained where the breakdown is. Our people who are victims deserve better across the board, and we have to work towards eradicating these shortcomings," Allen said.

He said the oversight being conducted over the SAPS is not a tick-boxing exercise.

"It is extremely important that reports such as these lead to better service delivery. It is also another stark reminder why the SAPS has to be devolved to a capable provincial government such as ours.

"We want to ensure that the SAPS is credible and trustworthy while delivering a service that is professional and of the highest standard and that protects and serves individuals often deeply affected by crime," Allen said.