Conviction Crisis: Criminal Justice System is Failing Hanover Park
Media Statement by Minister of Community Safety, Dan Plato
In the last three years, according to information sent to my office by the South African Police Service (SAPS) and signed off by the Provincial Commissioner's office, not a single conviction has been secured for any gang-related murder or attempted murder in Hanover Park. This is a conviction rate crisis that needs urgent attention.
Hanover Park is unfortunately notorious for its high levels of gangsterism and related violence. Despite efforts from the community to bring peace to this area, gangsterism remains rife. The latest information I have points to a situation that is compounded by the inability of the criminal justice system to properly hold violent criminals to account and ensure that gang killings are punished.
In terms of the province's oversight role over the police, I requested information from SAPS on the number of gang-related murders and attempted murders over the last three years to gauge how successful the criminal justice system has been in arresting, prosecuting and convicting perpetrators of gang-related violence.
I am deeply disturbed at the information I received. According to the information provided by SAPS, over the period 1 January 2009 - 31 March 2012, just more than three years:
- 87 cases of murder and attempted murder were reported in Hanover Park (26 murder cases).
- Out of those 87 cases, 54 arrests were made in connection with only 51 cases. In 36 cases, not a single arrest was made.
- Not a single conviction has been secured for gang-related murder or attempted murder in Hanover Park over the last three years.
Three years and three months, one community, 87 cases of murder and attempted murder, 54 arrests, zero convictions.
Something is seriously wrong here, and we want to know why and we want to know what the police are doing to fix this disturbing state of affairs. The residents of Hanover Park have lived in fear from the gangsters, waiting for the police to take action, but based on this set of information it would appear that they are losing the fight.
If no one is held responsible for these crimes, then there is little deterrent to others that may perpetrate similar crimes.
The NPA was equally concerned with these statistics provided by SAPS, and has agreed to look into the matter immediately. My office is now in the process of collecting all the relevant case numbers from SAPS so that the NPA can convene a meeting between SAPS, the NPA and the Department of Community Safety to determine what is happening with the conviction rate in Hanover Park. The NPA also pointed out that the number of murder cases reported by SAPS appears far lower than the reality.
Based on this shocking set of statistics there can no longer be any doubt that the Western Cape needs a specialised police gang unit that will focus on detecting and investigating gang-related crimes to secure prosecutions. These units would have specialist expertise that will secure the necessary evidence to put the criminals behind bars and keep them there until they have served time. At the moment this is not happening.
The Western Cape Community Safety Bill, which seeks to improve the efficiency of SAPS through effective oversight, will allow us to properly identify the real policing needs and priorities of our communities. This will assist SAPS to improve efficiency and effectiveness which will undoubtedly improve policing of gang-related crimes so desperately needed to stop the violence on our streets.
I have now instructed my department to conduct a study on similar criteria for all other gang-affected communities in the Western Cape, together with the NPA and SAPS, to see just how endemic this problem is. In terms of our provincial oversight role, I will continue to identify policing needs as well as systemic challenges so that we can find remedies and fix the future. The residents of Hanover Park, and indeed the whole of the Western Cape, deserve no less.
Spokesperson for Minister Plato
Cell: 072 623 4499