(File image) DA leader Helen Zille. Photo: Mxolisi Madela

Western Cape premier Helen Zille is consulting lawyers about setting up a commission of inquiry into the apparent breakdown in relationships between the police and the community of Khayelitsha.

This comes after a call from civil society for a formal inquiry into claims of police negligence and after a spate of vigilante attacks in Khayelitsha dating back to March.

Responding to a parliamentary question on the matter from African Christian Democratic Party MPL Grant Haskin, Zille said: “I will make a decision one way or the other in the next week or so.”

Zille said there had been unlawful commissions set up in the Western Cape in the past, and that she was consulting her legal team before making any announcement. “Bodies have the right to reply to the allegations before a commission is instituted,” she said. “The department concerned, the SA police, has not yet replied.”

In November, the Social Justice Coalition, the Treatment Action Campaign, Equal Education, the Triangle Project and Ndifuna Ukwazi called on Zille to “use her powers” to establish a commission of inquiry into apparent failures of the police and the criminal justice system in Khayelitsha. The calls were strengthened after several incidents of mob justice this year.

The NGOs submitted a dossier to Zille’s office, asking it to investigate:

* The lack of co-ordination between police and prosecuting authorities, which resulted in dockets being lost and cases being struck off court rolls.

* Investigating officers routinely failing to ensure witnesses were present at trials, causing postponements.

* Witnesses often being intimidated because they were not protected.

* Insufficient visible policing in Khayelitsha.

Dr Johan Burger, senior crime researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, said the commission of inquiry was long overdue.

“It won’t only be a beneficial inquiry for the Western Cape, but for the entire country. Attacks like these happen across South Africa every day.”

Western Cape police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Andre Traut said claims by community members that police were not doing their jobs were “absolute nonsense”.

“We are, through various initiatives, bringing policing closer to the communities,” Traut said. “There is no reason for the communities to punish criminals. Report the incidents to the police.”

Cape Argus