Towards a Safer Khayelitsha

The Report of the Commission of Inquiry
into Allegations of Police Inefficiency and
a Breakdown in Relations between SAPS
and the Community in Khayelitsha
Click here to view the Final Report August 2014

All the documents that formed part of the Commission’s deliberations are now on the website under the ‘Bundles’ menu.

Inspection in Loco Conducted on 21 and 22 January 2014

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Department of Community Safety

1.    The Western Cape Government welcomes the opening of the Commission this morning.  We earnestly hope that it will make a significant contribution towards satisfying the demands of the people of Khayelitsha for protection against the scourge of crime.

2.    We recall that the Premier established this Commission back in August of 2012.  Finally, after a long delay, occasioned by a legal challenge heard by the Constitutional Court, it is open for business.

3.    The Commission was set up in recognition of the constitutional right of the people of Khayelitsha to freedom and security.  The Bill of Rights imposes the obligation upon all organs of state in national, provincial and local government to respect, protect, promote and fulfill the Bill of Rights.

4.    According to figures released by SAPS in September of last year, Khayelitsha has the highest per capita crime rate in South Africa.   354 people were murdered in Khayelitsha.  168 murders were recorded at Khayelitsha Police Station; 54 at Lingelethu-West; and 132 at Harare.

5.    It is not surprising that this has strained relations between SAPS and the people of Khayelitsha; one manifestation of that has been a terrible spate of vigilante killings.

6.    It would seem that one reason for the crime crisis in Khayelitsha is the very low police-to-person ratio.  In the rest of the country, one finds an average of one police officer for every 300 people.  In Harare, there is only one officer per every 2000 people.  Those who attended in loco inspections here over the past two days have seen with their own eyes how inadequate this staffing level is.

7.    We know that the Constitution does not give to provinces day-to-day policing functions.  But province does have very important monitoring and oversight powers over police work within its boundaries.  That this is so has been recognized by the Constitutional Court -- in the decision upholding this Commission.  The Court held:
“[Province] has a legitimate interest that its residents are shielded from crime and that they enjoy the protection of effective, efficient and visible policing.”  

9.    The Court also offered some sage words on the policing crisis that this Commission was established to address:
“There is much to worry about when the institutions that are meant to protect vulnerable residents fail, or are perceived to be failing.  The police service has been entrusted with the duty to protect the inhabitants of South Africa and to uphold and enforce the law.  The Constitution requires accountability and transparency in governance.”

10.    We must accept that the crime problem in Khayelitsha in particular, as in South Africa in general, cannot be addressed by the police alone.  There cannot be an officer on every street, corner, posted at every school, or patrolling every bus stop and train platform.  That is why community involvement in crime prevention at every level is indispensable.   And it is why province strongly supports the strengthening of Community Police Forums and neighbourhood watches.  These bodies allow communities the opportunity to participate in the fight against crime at street level.

11.    I cannot avoid mentioning that the Provincial Department of Community Safety has been hampered over past years in exercising its oversight and monitoring powers, by three realities:

11.1.    The absence of a proper framework for the exercise of its powers and responsibilities.

11.2.    Financial and other resource constraints.

11.3.    The failure on the part of SAPS, in certain instances, to extend co-operation.   (To take one example, Province has struggled to extract statistics essential to understanding the nature and extent of the crime problem in various communities.)

12.    These difficulties notwithstanding, Province has been taking steps in the right direction.  In the past year all 149 police stations in the Western Cape were visited at least once by the Province’s Department of Community Safety.   More than 300 station visits are scheduled for the current year.

13.    The Western Cape Community Safety Act, passed in 2013, is designed to address some of these problems.  It gives clarity regarding Province’s monitoring and oversight powers, and enhances its capacities.  It will promote and support neighbourhood watches and CPF’s, and create an integrated crime monitoring information system -- based upon reliable statistics that province will be legally entitled to access.

14.    Everybody understands that the root causes of crime go beyond the mandate of the police.  We will hear about that from the sociologists and criminologists in the next weeks.  Crime is symptomatic of deep problems arising from our troubled past.  That is why Province has adopted the “whole of society” approach to crime prevention.   Government at every level must address the  socio-economic woes that create the conditions within which crime flourishes.  

15.    But at the same time we must recognise that the terms of reference set strict limits upon the scope of the Commission’s work.  It is not at large to investigate all of the many very serious problems in education, health care, infrastructure and social development that plague Khayelitsha.

16.    An overbroad interpretation of its mandate would distract the Commission from its essential focus - the functioning of SAPS within this community, and how to improve it.    Redirecting the attention of the Commission to vital - but collateral areas of concern - could expose it to legal attack for acting ultra vires.  More importantly, it would disappoint the expectations of the complainants whose demands led to the establishment of the Commission in the first place.  Their specific grievances have to do largely with the workings of the SAPS in the community.   And it is, after all, the police that are on the front line of the war against crime.

17.    In any event, if the Commission were to attend to the many social factors that give rise to the crime crisis in Khayelitsha, it would need to sit for five years – rather than just five weeks.  

18.    Province hopes that the Commission does not degenerate into recrimination, finger pointing, and blame shifting.  There is plenty of blame to go around.  But this Commission is for the people of Khayelitsha, not for the lawyers, and not the politicians.

19.    It is to be hoped that the Commission will play a valuable role in helping us all to satisfy our obligations and responsibilities.  While there has been productive co-operation between national and provincial government in the Western Cape, there is much room for improvement.  There must be free sharing of information about crime

20.    The Commission will ultimately compile a report of findings and recommendations.  Province’s hope is that these recommendations will assist the Province in doing its job of monitoring and overseeing the SAPS, especially as the Community Safety Act is implemented over the next few months.  We hope that Province’s monitoring and oversight will thus become more and more meaningful, not only in Khayelitsha, but across the length and breadth of the Western Cape.

21.    It is precisely in view of the enormous difficulties in policing a community with enormous infrastructural problems, chronically high unemployment, and a paucity of social support structures, that one hopes that the SAPS will welcome both this Commission's recommendations and Province's inputs and support.