For Immediate Release
23 March 2022
The Social Justice Coalition (SJC) has noted and is troubled by reports of the mass shootings and murders in Khayelitsha and neighbouring informal settlements. These incidents, among many other incidents of violence in Cape Town expose that the battle against extreme violent crime and gun violence in specific areas in the city, particularly in informal settlement and the Cape Flats needs structural interventions. Last year, a study published in the African Journal of Emergency Medicine revealed that young people living in Khayelitsha have a 25 times greater chance of dying violently than the global average. These statistics are a constant reflection of a failed policing system. The Western Cape has some of the most violent neighbourhoods, many of which are in informal settlements. It is not the first time that residents of these areas were confronted with such extreme acts of violence, proving the systemic nature of crime in Cape Town. Sadly, government at every level has contributed to the conditions for these violent crimes. In addition to the systemic issues mentioned above, there is a crisis of access to efficient and quality police services in Khayelitsha.
In previous years, the SJC has drawn attention to the findings of the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry (The Commission) into policing into allegations of police inefficiency. The Commission found that the structural conditions in informal settlements made routine visible policing patrols difficult as most informal neighbourhoods are not accessible by vehicle. The result, as one station commander admitted to at the Commission, is that the policing of informal neighbourhoods is “neglected”. The Commission considered it completely unacceptable that neighbourhoods where residents are particularly vulnerable are being largely overlooked by the South African Police Service (SAPS). As a result, the Commission recommended that guidelines regulating the visible policing of informal settlements be developed and that they identify the manner in which patrols of informal neighbourhoods should take place and ensure that they are undertaken routinely. Eight years since the Commission, the policing of informal settlements is still neglected as no guidelines for visible policing in informal settlements have been established. Moreover, the strategic deployment of police within communities, and the visibility of police in the spaces where and when crime is known to occur, can have a profound effect on not only reducing violent crimes but also on how communities see the police. It is imperative that adequate police resources are allocated to Black poor and working-class communities and that police are where crime happens to act not only as a deterrent but also to make residents feel safer.
Further findings revealed that the system of human resource allocation used by the SAPS has resulted in two of the Khayelitsha police stations (Harare and Khayelitsha Site B) being significantly understaffed and under-resourced. In 2013 residents of Makhaza were promised a fully functional police station and recommendation 19 of the Commission affirmed the need for a police station in Makhaza. Nine years later there is still no permanent police station in sight. In the eight years since the release of Khayelitsha Commission report the only intervention the Minister of Police has made towards implementing recommendation 19 was to deliver a mobile police station, two days before the 2021 local government elections. The mobile police station is located inside the Makhaza Shopping Centre and is inaccessible after 9pm when the shopping centre is closed. This leaves residents from Makhaza and surrounding areas in more or less the same position they were in before the mobile police station was delivered. The Minister of Police and Western Cape Provincial Police Commissioner are yet to provide a clear timeline when the construction of a fully functional police station will commence.
● No intelligence-led and evidence-based policing
One of the orders sought by the SJC, Equal Education (EE) and the Nyanga Community Police Forum (CPF) in the Police Resources Court Case was a declaration that Provincial Police Commissioner has the authority to ensure responsive policing by having the power to move resources between precincts within a province in keeping with Section 12 of the SAPS Act. Despite having these powers, an analysis undertaken by the Civilian Secretariat for Police, revealed that Provincial Commissioners hardly ever utilised them. According to the Secretariat’s Analysis of resource allocation in the SAPS, there were no marked deviations to what was allocated by national government in the majority of provinces. In the Western Cape it was found that before 2016 there were no deviations from the national allocations. This only changed in 2016 and it is unclear to what extent this has been utilised since. To successfully ensure that violence crimes are resolved, an intelligence led, and evidence based policing system needs to take place.
● Ineffective public lighting
The high levels of violent crime cannot be read outside of the inadequate public lighting conditions that many informal settlements in Cape Town are confronted with. Through various advocacy interventions over the years, communities in Khayelitsha have illustrated that inadequate public lighting is a security issue. This is moreover demonstrated in the City of Cape Town’s Design and Management Guidelines for a Safer City which states that “Good lighting is one of the most effective means of increasing levels of safety and deterring crime”. Despite this, Khayelitsha remains marked by a clear inequitable distribution of public lighting between communities.
● Inadequate CCTV camera coverage
The mass shootings and murders cannot be read outside of the inadequate CCTV camera coverage in Khayelitsha. The Commission found that counter to the City of Cape Town’s own criteria, the city had not installed cameras at all transport hubs in Khayelitsha. In addition, the Commission found that there were no CCTV cameras in the Harare Police Precinct – one of the most violent precincts in the country serving 172 473 people. Since 2014 the number of CCTV cameras in Khayelitsha have increased from 16 to 24. Unfortunately, the 8 additional cameras were installed without input from the SAPS. Instead, the 8 cameras were installed in conjunction with the Premier’s Alcohol Harms Reduction Game Changer. This means the 8 cameras narrowly focus on the enforcement of the Western Cape Liquor Act and not crime prevention or detection more broadly. This was a missed opportunity. Following the mass shootings, it is clear that SAPS is struggling to identify the perpetrators and having working CCTV cameras would assist during this time.
Over the years the SJC has used research, community organising, public interest litigation and advocacy to campaign for improved and equitable policing in informal settlements. However, these efforts have not yielded a positive response from government, who has the power to ensure that residents of Khayelitsha have access to equitable police services and justice. What is happening in the Western Cape is a crisis which demands urgent attention and action. The blame game between the levels of government needs to stop and as outlined above, all levels of government have critical responsibilities when it comes to crime prevention and response. The SJC’s calls for action are as follows:
1. The National Police Minister and the National Police Commissioner commit to the development of visible policing guidelines for informal settlements
2. The Western Cape Provincial Commissioner commits to implementing Section 12(3) of the SAPS Act and reallocate police in the province to where they are urgently needed
3. The National Crime Intelligence Head commits resources and develops an urgent strategy to the province for intelligence led policing
4. The Western Cape Premier and Community Safety MEC exercise their power of oversight over both SAPS and the City of Cape Town, and commits to providing the necessary resources
5. The City of Cape Town Mayor and MAYCO Member for Safety and Security commit to reallocate Law Enforcement resources to where they are needed, and that this allocation becomes permanent
6. The City of Cape Town Mayor and MAYCO Member for Safety and Security commit to developing a plan and strategy for adequate public lighting and CCTV cameras in poor communities and allocate the required funds.
For further information/comment contact:
Thando George: – 073 747 1121