06/12/2012. Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa addresses the media with the National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega at the Shareton Hotel, Pretoria. Picture: Oupa Mokoena

Cape Town - In a bid to clean up their ranks and image, the police will start publishing the names of applicants in newspapers to allow members of the public to help “vet” future officers.

This was announced by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa at an anti-crime summit in Khayelitsha yesterday. He said he hoped the public would “comment and follow up” when the names get published.

The South African police have taken a battering in recent years over what many perceive as a heavy-handedness reminiscent of the apartheid-era security structures while communities have lost faith amid increasing evidence of corruption and poor functioning.

Mthethwa, who was invited by the Khayelitsha Development Forum (KDF) to speak to residents about crime, policing and community relations, said the names of 668 applicants who had been selected for the police basic training course in the Western Cape would be published later this year. He did not say when or where they would be published.

The new initiative will be instituted in the Western Cape, Northern Cape and Mpumalanga, with other provinces to follow at a later date.

Police have already started changing the wording on the job adverts in these three provinces to reflect the drive by police management to recruit only the best candidates and those acceptable to the public.

A recent advert in Mpumalanga inviting people to apply for the police’s basic development learning programme said that in addition to checking criminal records, academic qualifications, driving licences and citizenship, police would also “publish the names of applicants in the newspapers for public comment”.

It is hoped that through the public participation process potential bad apples will be identified and kept out of the service which is engaged in a battle to win back public confidence and trust.

The Marikana massacre in 2012 when police opened fire and killed 34 striking mine workers near Rustenburg, and last year’s video of police beating Mozambican national Mido Macia and dragging him behind a police vehicle in Daveyton near Johannesburg and his subsequent death made world headlines.

Closer to home Khayelitsha has seen a spate of mob killings of people accused of being criminals, with many residents blaming the outbursts of public violence on community anger over police corruption and inefficiency.

The police deny this is the case, saying the killings are no different from any other criminality.

The Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry is investigating allegations of a breakdown in trust between the police and residents, as well as complaints directed at the sprawling township’s three police stations.

The commission, set up by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille in 2012, will resume public hearings on Monday.

Just over a week ago Capetonians were shocked when cellphone footage emerged of two police officers viciously assaulting a near-naked Nigerian man in the city CBD.

Provincial police management expressed outrage at the incident and the officers were immediately suspended.

The two men were subsequently arrested and charged in connection with the assault.

Yesterday Mthethwa was given a rousing reception by the roughly 200 people who packed the Andile Msizi community hall in Site B in Khayelitsha.

The forum’s chairman Ndithini Tyhido said the summit had been organised to improve communication between residents and police.

He strongly denied that it had been organised in reaction to the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry, saying the forum had invited police to address the community before the establishment of the commission.

In his half-hour speech, Mthethwa urged the community to work closely with police and to join community policing forums.

Mthethwa said residents could help police by proposing “innovative and creative solutions to the challenges of crime” and urged residents to give “very specific” feedback to police.

The minster likened the fight against crime to the fight against apartheid.

“Our common humanity dictates that, as we rose against apartheid racism, so we must combine to defeat criminality,” he said.

Mthethwa took the opportunity to emphasise the link between poor infrastructure and crime.

“The issue of safety is not the sole responsibility of police,” said Mthethwa.

“All levels of government have a responsibility to find solutions to the challenges of crime.”

Later, in a media briefing, Mthethwa said unless the suburb’s informal settlement areas were upgraded with better access roads and more street lights, even “20 police stations” wouldn’t be able to make the community safe.

Mthethwa’s words appeared to be the latest salvo in an on-going political spat between the DA-led City of Cape Town and the SA Police Service and community organisations over how best to police Khayelitsha’s informal settlements such Enkanini and Endlovini.

The city has pushed back against similar statements in the past, saying policing was solely the function of national government. - Weekend Argus