Today saw a number of new experts appear before the Commission of Inquiry to provide expert evidence and recommendations.
Mr Sean Tait, the coordinator of the African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum, with over 15 years’ experience in policing and criminal justice related areas, emphasized the need for investing more into the monitoring of police and especially in relation to civilian’s treatment while in the custody of police. He noted that the only way for the oversight of police to work is if the task is taken on robustly and is done without fear or favour. Tait highlighted the need for some kind of visitor system to be implemented during which time police cells can be inspected. Currently, certain Community Policing Forums are empowered to do so but they are failing to report on such inspections.
Justice Kate O’Regan, who is co-chairing the Inquiry, commented on the need for a grounded assessment of the public’s experience of the police, which is currently non-existent. Tait stated that the ability to treat people with respect and dignity in terms of the Constitution needed to be prioritised, to which Adv. Arendse (on behalf of the SAPS) responded that the need to prioritise issues dealing with the human rights of people was not in dispute. Adv. Arendse attempted to obtain Tait’s concession that it is impossible to have transformed the police within 20 years and that there was in fact, “a good story to tell”. However, Tait was very quick to respond stating that while the police have achieved a number of victories, there are occurrences and events within the police service which are completely unacceptable and need to be addressed.
Dr Chris De Kock, a crime analyst and retired SAPS Crime Intelligence Officer, asserted that policing should always be intelligence based. Unfortunately, in the case of Khayelitsha, De Kock believes that police are not engaging in crime intelligence, the consequence of which is what he described as “policing by chance”. He noted that police in Khayelitsha will, “patrol the area, police the area and here and there they will arrest someone by chance.”
De Kock informed the Commission that the two most successful policing years in post-apartheid South Africa were during the Confed Cup and the Soccer World Cup. This was a result of sound analysis at station level. A special effort was made by the police and in some areas crime decreased by 20 – 40%. The Minister of Police at the time, Bheki Cele, mentioned that they would continue with this approach, however, it now appears that we are going backwards. Khayelitsha is in fact in a worse crime position than it was 10 years ago.
De Kock is of the view that crime would have been reduced if crime combatting was intelligence led. What this approach showed was that if police are focused on their policing and know their enemy, they can have a significant impact on crime levels. De Kock went so far as to acknowledge that this approach was more important than focusing on increasing resources and could have a greater impact on reducing crime. Quite shockingly De Kock drew the Commission’s attention to the fact that the greater Khayelitsha region has the highest incidence levels in South Africa for murder, attempted murder, sexual offences, assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm and robbery with aggravating circumstances
Dr Catherine Ward, from the Department of Psychology and Child Guidance Clinic at the University of Cape Town, addressed evidence based approaches of dealing with gangs. Ward warned that youth gangs in the area are becoming a serious problem and that people are dying as a result of this. This evidence was contrary to previous evidence from SAPS management that youth gangs do not exist in Khayelitsha. Ward ardently stated that the combatting of gangs would require the combined effort of the whole of society. She went so far as to state that it is critical that the Department of Education plays its role in combatting youth recruitment into gangs and that such a responsibility could not be that of the police alone. Justice O’Regan commented that an urgent task team needs to be set up to counter the recent phenomenon of gangs in Khayelitsha. She further noted that this would require buy-in from the City, Province, SAPS and other governmental agencies. Should this problem not be tackled now, it was predicted that gangs would become a permanent fixture in the area.
Finally, Dr David Klatzow dealt with the enormous problem being faced when it came to collecting forensic evidence. In response to a question regarding inadequate or no lighting at crime scenes, Klatzow noted that, “My concern is that in this country, one life is worth more than another life, and that life is worth less than a generator.” With a generator costing as little as R5,000, this spoke strongly to the inadequate resourcing that many police stations, such as those found in Khayelitsha have to face.
When discussing the importance of ensuring good crime scene management and bemoaning the shocking quality of such management in South Africa, Klatzow noted that, “The vision of Hilton Botha trampling around [Oscar] Pistorius’ home is not one that should fill us with national pride… People should not be on a crime scene for idle curiosity or entertainment cases – if the botched crime scene management and lack of attention to forensic detail occurs in high profile cases, imagine the lacklustre approach in other cases.”
Wednesday will see a number of further experts appearing before the Commission of Inquiry. These include Dr Lisa Grobler (corruption), Ms Clare Ballard (oversight), Ms Lisa Vetten and Prof Lillian Artz (domestic violence, homophobic & sexual violence) and finally, Mr Gareth Newham (complaints system and police institutional culture).
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