Today the Commission of Inquiry heard further expert evidence and recommendations.
Ms Ntutu Mtwana from Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) in Khayelitsha, stressed the need for the police to reach out to all sectors of the Khayelitsha community. She believes that the trust in the SAPS can be rebuilt and sustained provided that the SAPS proactively call on communities and seek collaboration through forums such as imbizos. Any progressive developments in the relationship between the police and the community would need to be further bolstered by the SAPS not only taking on the community’s recommendations, but by providing feedback on work they undertake. This could be partly achieved through regular updates on notice boards at police stations detailing crimes that have occurred in the specific station’s precinct. Mtwana stressed that the police also needed assistance in sharing information with the community, and that community members elected to positions of leadership, for example in community policing forums (CPFs), could perform this task.
Prof. John Cartwright, from the Centre of Criminology and the Safety and Violence Initiative at the University of Cape Town, provided insightful information into the Peace Committee project which was introduced in the Western Cape in the late 1990s. Peace Committees provided a forum for disputing parties to come together and reach consensus on a solution to their specific problem. Peace Committees would deal with disputes arising from money lending and common assault to those of a domestic nature. More serious violent crimes such as rape or murder would always be referred to the police. Peace Committees created a safe environment for people to speak out; it was a, “grass roots democracy of people finding their voice”. Cartwright became emotional recalling the empowering nature of the initiative, “People with problems would discover that they are the people with the solutions.” Cartwright noted the good relationships that Peace Committees had formed with the SAPS, not least because the initiative helped to alleviate police workload. It also provided communities with an alternative forum for settling disputes.
At its height there were an estimated 200 Peace Committees in different communities, which held up to 3 000 gatherings a month. Noting its successes and potential going forward, then Minister of Social Welfare, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi involved government, which provided financial support for the project. Following the events after the ANC elective conference in Polokwane in 2007, the Minister resigned from her position and funding for the project “dried-up overnight”. By the time the project had been suspended, 47 340 completed Peace Committee gatherings had been documented. The suspension of a project which was showing successful results was the consequence of a lack of political will.
Cartwright informed the Commission that the structure could quite easily be re-introduced, “the procedures are still there, and trained and eager people are still there”. Legal proceedings are currently underway to try and recover money from the Department of Social Welfare; the Department still owes money to people who assisted on the Peace Committees. Unfortunately, this has “left a bad taste” in many of their mouths.
Dr Julie Berg, also from the Centre of Criminology and the Safety and Violence Initiative, stated that the Commission was, “an opportunity to reflect on 20 years of democracy and what we mean by democratic policing.” She stressed the need for parties to be willing to experiment. The starting point would be, “quite an explicit plan of 3-5 years”, with Khayelitsha being used as a “testing ground” which could potentially have both “national and international implications”.
Dr Barbara Holtmann emphasized the need for the integration of service delivery at local level. She noted that crime and violence of all kinds is a sign of societal and service delivery issues. Discussing the pressure faced by the police, Holtmann noted that the level of post-traumatic stress disorder is extreme and must have an impact on the their ability to deliver.
Holtmann detailed work she had undertaken for the SAPS in 2008/2009, which aimed to address the complexity of safety challenges in 24 precincts in the Western Cape, including Khayelitsha. The plan was delivered to the Province and a launch event was held, however the safety plans were never implemented. Holtmann emphatically called for action, stating that there has been so much research done and advice given, “We have to stop doing the same thing and expect a different outcome. It’s time to try something.”
Friday will be the final day of expert evidence before the Commission. Experts to provide evidence tomorrow are: Dr Gail Super (vengeance attacks), Dr Mulder Van Eyk (police training) and Mr Horatio Huxham (information technology). Tomorrow’s afternoon session will see the Commission moving venue to 4 Dorp Street in the CBD. Space will be limited to around 50 people for this session. Mr Andrew Faull and Dr Jonny Steinberg will present their reports to the Commission via video conference during the session.
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