Justice Kate O'Regan is chairing the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry into policing in the area. PICTURE: THOMAS HOLDER

Cape Town - Khayelitsha residents hero-worshipped taxi drivers for meting out street justice to dangerous criminals, suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Monday.

Vavi put in an appearance at the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry's hearings in Cape Town where he wanted to testify about the recent murder of a relative.

Vavi's request was denied, but he was told he would be allowed to hand in an affidavit detailing the murder of his sister's granddaughter, Busiswa Sizaba. He told reporters at the eighth day of oral hearings by the commission, which is investigating alleged police inefficiency in the area, that he attended Sizaba's funeral service on Sunday.

Sizaba, believed to be about 25-years old, was found dead on a street in Harare, Khayelitsha, about two weeks ago.

“Tuesday, the police arrived to say your granddaughter was found dead somewhere... in Khayelitsha on the Friday. When they arrive it's on the fifth day since she has died basically,” Vavi said, describing how his sister was informed of her grandchild's death.

Relatives then went to Busiswa's boyfriend's house in a bid to find out how she died.

“They found this place, a backyard shack. They found a person, the person is known... he is known to be the king of the reign of terror basically in the community,” Vavi said.

“When they arrive, there is blood all over in the shack and clearly the story now changes from somebody who was picked up in the street to somebody who was probably murdered in the shack and got thrown out in the streets.”

Questioned by Vavi's relatives, the boyfriend said he was traumatised by the death and had therefore not thought about informing the family or police.

“The police have been investigating this guy (who is) clearly now a murder suspect. Nothing has happened (and) it's now the end of the second week since that murder has happened. The guy is still roaming the streets,” he said.

This was but one example of why residents did not trust the police to enforce the law.

“They (residents) fear the skollies (criminals). They have no confidence in the police. They love the taxi drivers because they mete out the street justice to these guys who impose this reign of terror.”

Vavi's own family members were becoming impatient with police inaction and thought they had little alternative but to approach taxi drivers to help them. There was no confidence, and a breakdown of trust.

“You have to resort to either join these taxi drivers and beat these guys up or you fear them, full stop. There is no other option,” Vavi said.

Asked what he expected from the commission, Vavi said he wanted a list of recommendations which would benefit the criminal justice system across the country.

“To me this is about South Africa, justice in the country as a whole. What comes out here is hopefully recommendations that are comprehensive, that can be looked up as a mirror not by the people of Khayelitsha, but by South African society as a whole,” he said.

Vavi hoped the commission would benefit the government, the police, unions, civil society organisations, and normal citizens.

“Police stations here, I can tell you they reflect the situations everywhere. These police vans are not working, the police are absent, the policeman has just killed the wife, the community has stoned the police station. They are angry that somebody's body has not been moved for hours after they have been killed. It's the same story everywhere.”

The commission, headed by retired Constitutional Court judge Kate O'Regan, was established by Western Cape premier Helen Zille to probe accusations by civil society that police inaction was leading to an increase in mob justice killings.

The commission was delayed for some time when Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa tried to have it scrapped. Mthethwa lost his legal bid to stop the commission in the Constitutional Court in October last year.