Witness Protection needs Continued Attention
Statement by Dan Plato, Western Cape Minister of Community Safety
I am increasingly concerned regarding the availability of quality witness protection to those who willingly avail their testimony to help make Western Cape communities a safer place.
After being made aware of a situation last week in which two witnesses to a murder were placed in jeopardy while on the witness protection programme, I urgently contacted the SAPS Provincial Police Commissioner, Major General Thembisile Patekile. I asked him to intervene and ensure that the safety of the witnesses was ensured.
I want to thank Provincial Commissioner Patekile, for his prompt reaction as his attention to detail ensured that the two witnesses were moved to a new location. His swift response has saved lives.
Witnesses, and potential witnesses, need to know that they are in safe hands and at a place of safety. This is the only way to ensure they are able to give testimonies in court that rid our streets of the criminals holding our communities hostage.
As part of my oversight mandate over policing in the province, I will instruct the Department of Community Safety to monitor whether SAPS is preventing people from accessing the Justice Department’s Witness Protection programme.
We will monitor this through oversight at police stations, as well as during the Department’s outreach events.
The events of last week should not be repeated and I am making an urgent appeal to SAPS management to properly train the police officers in our communities on how to effectively provide this service in collaboration with the Justice Department.
While not all who are offered witness protection accept it, the example of last week is cause for serious concern.
We have seen too many innocent lives lost, lives of people who decided to take a stand against crime, only to become murder statistics themselves.
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