Khayelitsha cops exposed by their own

2012-11-11 10:00
Natasha Joseph and Charl du Plessis
Police report shows a fifth of murders are committed by vigilantes

A total of 78 “mob justice” murders were committed in the Khayelitsha policing district in the space of 14 months.

That means a fifth of the 360 murders reported at the three police stations in Khayelitsha during the most recent crime statistic review period were committed by vigilante groups.

This is one of the startling revelations to emerge in a damning report about the state of policing in Khayelitsha, and it’s authored by the police themselves.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa is engaged in a court battle to interdict a commission of inquiry into policing in Khayelitsha.

Premier Helen Zille has appointed the commission, headed by retired Constitutional Court justice Kate O’Regan and former prosecutions boss Vusi Pikoli, after NGOs working in the township complained about the  breakdown of residents’ trust in the ability of the police to fight crime and keep them safe.

But while Mthethwa battles Zille, a police task team appointed by national police commissioner Riah Phiyega has produced its report, which in many ways seems to prove the NGOs right.

The report, which is annexed to Western Cape police commissioner Arno Lamoer’s affidavit in the court matter, reveals that:

» Suspects at Khayelitsha stations are “generally not charged within 48 hours”, a contravention of the Constitution;

» A “large number of suspects” are detained, not charged and are then released without ever being charged or appearing in court at the Khayelitsha, Lingelethu West and Harare police stations.

This, the task team says in its report, “creates the impression that members are arresting and detaining suspects without the prerequisite of a reasonable suspicion that the suspects committed the crime in question”; and

» Very little impact is made on “serious crimes like armed robberies and housebreakings”.

The report reads that “in most of these cases, no facial identity profiles are compiled even where the complainants had described the suspects, witness statements are not always taken, and the  complainants/witnesses are not given the opportunity of viewing the photo albums of criminals available at cop stations to identify suspects.”

The team described the recorded response time of the Khayelitsha police, indicated on its performance chart, as “questionable” owing to the “poor record-keeping of complaints received”.

This was noted after the team found that not all complaints were being recorded in the stations’ occurrence books.

A spike in vigilante crimes – in which suspected criminals are attacked, beaten and sometimes necklaced – was part of the motivation for Zille’s complaint to the provincial police, the task team notes in its report.

The team says in its report that the three stations collectively recorded 78 incidents between April last year and June this year related to what it calls “bundu courts”.

Murder dockets had been opened in all these cases and were being investigated, the task team reported.

Among the team’s most alarming findings was the number of police officers at all three stations who were disciplined for misconduct during the six months between January and June this year.

At Khayelitsha, 138 officers were disciplined in those six months.

Between January and December last year, 291 officers were disciplined at the station.

The task team reported a “dramatic increase” of domestic violence complaints – and specifically grievous bodily harm – against officers at the station in the first six months of this year.

A total of 16 domestic violence complaints were recorded in that period, up from zero during the same time last year.

This could be blamed on high stress levels, the team found, but was also “an indication that those entrusted with the policing of social crimes within the community are in fact perpetrators themselves”.

Between January and December last year, 205 officers were disciplined at Harare Police Station.

The station only has a staff complement of 195, which shows that several of those disciplined were repeat offenders.

A total of 76 officers from Harare were disciplined during the first six months of this year.

And at Lingelethu West, 107 employees were disciplined during the first six months of this year. The task team noted that “repeated actions were taken against three captains”.


Zackie Achmat of the Social Justice Coalition, which was among the original complainants, said the report “shows very clearly that (Mthethwa) does not want to accept responsibility for his failure since coming into office”.

He further said: “The inquiry is absolutely necessary, not to witch-hunt people, but in fact to investigate what can be done to fix this.

“We demand that the minister immediately stop his opposition and co-operates.”

Mthethwa’s spokesperson Zweli Mnisi said they would prefer not to comment, as the matter was due to come before the Western Cape High Court tomorrow.