Handover of Final Report on Commission of Inquiry into Policing in Khayelitsha
Speech by Helen Zille, Premier of the Western Cape
It is a great pleasure to be receiving the final report of the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry into Policing in front of all of you today.
This handover is the culmination of over a year of hard work by the Commission. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the commissioners, Justice Catherine O’Regan and Advocate Vusumzi Pikoli, the evidence leaders, Advocate Nazreen Bawa and Advocate Thembalihle Sidaki and the Secretary of the Commission Amanda Dissel for their dedication and commitment when it comes to completing the enormous task bestowed on them and for producing an outstanding written report and set of recommendations.
I would also like to thank everyone who provided assistance and support to the Commission over the past two years. Most importantly, I would like to thank the people of Khayelitsha, the original complainants and the many witnesses, who provided evidence to the Commission. Your contributions – both personal and expert in nature – have ensured that the findings and recommendations contained in the report are meaningful and speak directly to the problems in the South African Police Service (SAPS) in Khayelitsha.
The decision to appoint a Commission of Inquiry two years ago was taken after a protracted period of communication between myself, the complainants and the SAPS. I believed it was the first step in a process that I hoped would ultimately result in more effective and efficient policing being applied in Khayelitsha, which would eliminate the scourge of vigilantism plaguing the area and restore public confidence and trust in the police.
While the real work of the Commission was delayed by a protracted period of litigation between the Western Cape Government and the former National Minister of Police – which culminated in a Constitutional Court ruling confirming its existence was valid and lawful – today’s handover demonstrates that recommendations derived from Commissions of Enquiry envisaged in the Constitution can be realised within a tight timeframe and budget. This is due, in no small measure, to the work ethic, out the box thinking, and consultative approach adopted by the commissioners appointed in this matter, and we owe them a big thanks for this too.
I would like to thank the Western Cape Department of Community Safety for providing the funding for the Commission and for making this money available without diverting any of the budgets allocated to programmes focused on safety promotion and crime prevention in communities. Costs were also kept down due to the willingness of a number of experts to freely make available their time, knowledge and expertise during the process. I believe the Commission epitomises what we mean when the provincial government speaks about working “Better Together”.
After having briefly read the findings and recommendations contained in the report, I believe that a lot of what is proposed could result in much wider benefits over and above increasing safety in Khayelitsha. For example, the Commission has recommended that the SAPS develops provincial guidelines in relation to visible policing in informal neighbourhoods. This would result in improved patrols in a number of areas in the province.
Many of the concerns raised by Khayelitsha residents are also shared by other communities. The insights gained during the Commission’s investigation and many of the recommendations that have been made could potentially direct government policy, programmes and interventions aimed at increasing safety and improving policing across the province, and even the rest of the country, in the future.
I therefore welcome all the recommendations made by the Commission. There are two recommendations where the Western Cape Government is identified as having to take the lead namely;
- The establishment of a multi-sectoral task team to address the problem of youth gangs in Khayelitsha to be convened by the provincial department of Community Safety and;
- A provincial task team to survey community attitudes to liquor licensing, unlicensed liquor outlets and the distribution of liquor general in residential neighbourhoods with a view of developing a policy to regulate liquor outlets.
The increasing numbers of people abusing alcohol in the province and a growing culture of gangs, which is spreading to more and more communities, are two social challenges that we too have identified as threatening the future of the people of the Western Cape
The Commission has made a number of disturbing findings when it comes to the prevalence of youth gangs in Khayelitsha. This includes the fact that children as young as 10 years old are being recruited on a daily basis and that fighting between gangs often take place during school time and has resulted in some learners staying away from school.
The Western Cape Government, in partnership with the City of Cape Town, have introduced a number of interventions within our limited powers and functions to address gangsterism and the gang violence crisis in the province.
But we recognise that we cannot tackle this problem on our own. That is why we support the Commission’s recommendation that a multi-sectoral task team consisting of a range of stakeholders including the SAPS, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the national department of Justice, a number of provincial departments, the City of Cape Town , school principals and civil society be established to draw up a strategic plan to address youth gangs.
The Commission has prescribed that the strategic plan addresses a range of issues from expanding after-school activities for learners and diversionary programmes for youth-at-risk to strengthening the criminal justice system and criminal intelligence to ensure criminals are brought to justice and gangs are eradicated.
This recommendation is directly in line with our provincial government’s focus on a whole-of-society approach when it comes to increasing safety. If we hope to tackle the gang crisis, every role player needs to fulfil the duties and responsibilities required of them. The Western Cape Government looks forward to leading the task team process.
We also recognise that alcohol abuse has a myriad of negative consequences including driving up violent crime, particularly domestic violence, in communities. It is estimated that 60% of crimes committed are as a result of alcohol or drug abuse.
In order to deal with this problem we passed the Western Cape Liquor Act, which is aimed at restricting access to alcohol in communities and enforcing liquor laws at legal outlets.
However, this legislation has had little effect on dealing with the tens of thousands of illegal shebeens in the province including the 1 400 illegal ones in Khayelitsha.
We therefore welcome the Commission’s recommendation that the provincial department of Community Safety establish a task team to investigate new policy options to deal with unlicensed liquor outlets.
We know that the provincial government cannot tackle this problem on its own, which is why we also welcome the fact that the Commission has suggested that the task team include the Provincial Commissioner and Deputy Provincial Commissioner of the SAPs and the head of the Metro Police. We also welcome the recommendation that residents in Khayelitsha should be surveyed on their views on illegals shebeens.
Any successful plan to deal with illegal shebeens and the availability of alcohol in communities needs to include citizens taking responsibility for their own lives and safety by not abusing alcohol and the police clamping down on illegal outlets as they only have the legal authority to shut them down.
We hope that the task team will result in all relevant role-players being brought together to fight this scourge in a systematic and coordinated way.
Finally, I would also like to express our support for the Commission’s recommendation that the SAPS and the provincial department of Community Safety enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to facilitate the department in carrying out its constitutional oversight functions over policing in the province.
The Commission has suggested that the MOU includes regulations on a number of issues including visits by department officials to police stations as well as unannounced visits, arrangements for the department to be allowed to inspect closed dockets, the manner in which it can investigate complaints against police officers and a closer collaboration between the provincial government and the SAPS on specific safety challenges including youth gangs, school safety and alcohol abuse.
This recommendation is directly in line with our Community Safety Act, which focuses on regulating and clarifying the powers, functions and duties of the provincial government when it comes to its oversight functions and responsibilities set out in Section 206 of the Constitution.
We believe that the process of drafting and signing an MOU with SAPS will be both illuminating and instructive for when we draft the regulations that will govern the implementation of the Community Safety Act in the future.
In closing, I would like to reiterate the Western Cape Government’s commitment to do doing what we can, within our limited constitutional powers, to support the SAPS to effectively and efficiently prevent, combat and investigate crime.
We want work co-operatively with the police over the next five years and provide them with the support they need to maintain law and order. We also want to improve our relationship with the SAPS national leadership and we look forward to engaging with the National Minister of Police Nkosinathi Nhleko on the Commission’s recommendations.
I call on all stakeholders including civil society and the citizens of Khayelitsha to continuing working the City of Cape Town, the Western Cape Government and the SAPS to make the area safer. We will only be able to achieve this if every person plays an active role in fighting crime in their communities.
I thank you.