The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) condemns recent statements attributed to ANC Provincial Executive member Andile Lili in which he is quoted as saying that ‘criminals must be killed immediately and brutally’.
Such reckless and dangerous comments are a call to murder and to undermine the rule of law. We have reiterated the following position on many occasions since 2011 when the issue of vigilante justice returned to the front pages of the newspapers.
We understand the frustration and the fear that is experienced as a result of a police service that cannot always keep people safe and a justice system that does not always deliver justice. Our members who live in Khayelitsha’s informal settlements experience this pervasive lack of safety daily. Members and their families, neighbours, and friends have been robbed, assaulted, raped, some killed conducting tasks many people take for granted such as walking to school or trying to access a communal toilet. Often their subsequent experiences with the police are unacceptable, even traumatic. We know that criminals terrorise communities and are released on bail back into those same communities. We know there are police members who are corrupt, who are complacent, who are rude to people laying complaints. We know that cases take years to complete in our court system and that criminals get away with crimes.
It is because of this constant lack of safety and poor service that we began to advocate for an independent investigation into the police and criminal justice system from 2010. This led to the establishment of the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry.
People have a right to and should be outraged and angry when the people and systems tasked with protecting them are failing. But none of this can ever justify committing violence against criminals or suspects. This only serves to perpetuate further violence in our society and turns law-abiding people into criminals themselves. Evidence also shows that children being exposed to brutal scenes such as necklacings results in the normalisation of violence.
For years we and many other civil society organisations in Cape Town and across the country have advocated for improved safety, policing and justice for informal settlement areas. Since 2009 we have maintained that places like Khayelitsha, Nyanga, or Manenberg experience disproportionately higher levels of crime and in many instances are less resourced than areas with lower crime rates. This was further evidenced by the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry in 2014.
We agree that there are deep systemic issues that need to be addressed to make our communities safe and to mend relationships between communities and the police and justice system. But this must be done through lawful, peaceful means. When a suspected criminal is caught they must be handed over to the police, not assaulted or killed.
The Commission released its report almost one year ago. It made a number of recommendations that require buy-in from the police and a range of stakeholders. These include recommendations to deal with the problem of vigilantism. While there has been some progress on a local level, to date the Minister of Police Nathi Nhleko has failed to respond to the report and indicate how the SAPS at a national level plans to implement these recommendations. Vigilantism is the consequence of a range of factors and a more effective, responsive, and accountable police service will have a positive effect in addressing this.
Instead of advocating for further violence and bloodshed Lili should use the platforms and avenues he has as a leader and a member of the provincial ANC to put pressure on the police and the justice system and government to ensure that the Commission’s recommendations are implemented and other necessary actions taken. There are many complex reasons for crime, for a lack of safety, and for an overburdened and under-resourced police service. We need to begin changing these systems. Ensuring safety and justice in our communities can never be solved through vigilantism and violence.
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