Criminal Justice System in Khayelitsha Must be Strengthened
Media Statement by Dan Plato, Minister of Community Safety
A memorandum received by my office yesterday highlights the need to urgently address the failures of the criminal justice system in Khayelitsha and for increasing safety in the township.
It is clear that the criminal justice system, the responsibility of the national government, needs to be strengthened and I will this week write to the provincial heads of the national government departments entrusted with the criminal justice system to urgently address the Khayelitsha community's grievances of inadequate access to justice.
Furthermore, the Provincial Police Commissioner, the Regional Commissioner of Correctional Services, the Director of Public Prosecutions in the Western Cape and the Western Cape Regional Head of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development will be invited to participate in my department's Safety Summit in Khayelitsha, which is scheduled for later this month.
I share the concerns and needs raised by the community and believe that the justice system and South African Police Service (SAPS) have a constitutional responsibility to address these.
Facilitation to strengthen partnerships and find solutions is an important part of my oversight role and the focus of the Safety Summit will be on increasing safety in the township in a holistic manner, across government and across society.
Role players from national, provincial and local government departments, as well as civil society organisations, will be invited to participate. This will provide an opportunity for the community of Khayelitsha to raise concerns identified directly with the departments involved and provide an important platform for these issues to be addressed.
Since taking office I have engaged with various community entities in Khayelitsha and Cape Town, and there have been resounding calls for the better delivery of justice by the courts as well as improved and increased policing.
Improved detective training, for instance, is vital in securing convictions and improving conviction rates. Court backlogs remain a constraint to delivering justice and the lack of properly managed sentencing plans and poor-quality rehabilitation programmes for inmates often means that offenders fall back into a life of crime.
Conducting an independent investigation into the criminal justice system, however, falls outside of the mandate of the Department of Community Safety.
The Constitution allows for provinces, therefore my department in the Western Cape, to oversee the conduct and the performance of the police. Professional and efficient service delivery by SAPS to the community is a priority.
Whilst operational control of the police remains a national competency, I believe we can hold the police to account through effective oversight. Complaints from the community relating to police misconduct, police brutality and poor service and/or investigation can be lodged with my office for investigation. The number for our 24-hour complaints line on police conduct is 021 483 4332.
The Constitution also allows for police resources to be in line with the needs of the communities. If communities therefore request increased policing or specialised police units to deal with issues like gangs and drugs, then the national government should be responsive to these needs.
My department has conducted an extensive review of the policing needs and priorities in the province and we have engaged with the Community Police Forums (CPFs) in Harare, Lingelethu West and Khayelitsha in this regard. The community, through the CPF, identified sexual offences, domestic violence, burglaries, assault and armed robbery as priority crimes in the area. This report on the needs of the community in terms of policing was sent to the national police to incorporate into their policing plan.