Cape Town - Despite a R7million budget and an annual salary of about R1m, the office of the provincial police ombudsman, headed by advocate Vusi Pikoli, is seen as a waste of taxpayers’ money because it is just a “postbox for complaints”.
Several Community Police Forums canvassed either didn’t know about the ombudsman or have found little use for its existence. The ANC say it is duplicating the work of the Independent Complaints Directorate (Ipid).
Cheslyn Steenberg, secretary of the Kensington Community Police Forum (CPF), said the office of the ombudsman is of little value to CPFs.
“We are well aware of the office for the ombudsman, but we have steered away from them completely. They have not assisted us, because our issue were related to physical police presence issues. They can’t help us at all so therefore we decided to steer away from them,” he said.
Kathy Cronje, CPF chairperson in Ocean View, said they have had many complaints, but have received little feedback.
“I don’t think we have received feedback on a single case we have registered with the ombud. Many cases are registered, but little is acted upon,” she said.
Both Kensington and Ocean View have seen protests over a spike in crime in their areas and lack of police presence and resources.
Jonathan Hobday, CPF chairperson for Mowbray, said they worked with the ombudsman “but have never lodged complaints with them”. “We are very much aware of them. It remains very important to deal with a reputable body that can handle the many complaints that there are from the police. I don’t think there is a degree of duplication, but my understanding is that the Ipid investigates the more serious issues and the WCPO the service delivery complaints.”
Gerald Johannes, CPF chairperson for Elsies River, said: “It is something new to us, but we have never used their service. That is all I can say about them.”
ANC spokesperson on community safety Pat Lekker said the ombudsman is just a postbox for complaints.
“We already have the Ipid and Civilian Secretariat for Police that deals with these complaints from the public. We have always maintained that there is no need for such an office. The DA is duplicating the works of the national government and by doing so they undermine the ANC-led national government, but this is not new,” she said.
Western Cape MEC for Community Safety Dan Plato believes the ombudsman is a relationship builder between police and communities, but its work is misunderstood.
“The ombud’s role relates to only service delivery. If there are problems CPFs can report it to the ombud then it will be referred to relevant parties. Police brutality is to be investigated by the Ipid. A case registered with the ombud will be referred to either the prosecuting authority or to the Ipid. That is all the ombud does,” he said.
Pikoli agrees that his role is misunderstood, but seem to contradict Plato on its interaction with CPFs. “I deal with specific complaints from members of the public. Those complaints need to be specific. The Department of Community Safety deals with the CPFs,” Pikoli said.
Johan Burger, senior researcher, Crime and Justice Programme at the Institute for Security Studies, said the police ombud and the Ipid are fundamentally different.
“The Ipid would investigate and recommend charges to the NPA that relate to murder, death in police custody, police corruption and police assault.
“The serious matters are more in the ambit of the Ipid. The police ombud deals with issues of service delivery. The ombudsman would take the complaints it receives and forward it to Ipid. The ombudsman facilitates that.”