Despite searing heat in the Cape Town city center, about 400 people from Khayelitsha and other townships, all wearing black T-Shirts, gathered to oppose police minister Nathi Mthethwa’s application to halt the O’Regan Commission investigating police behaviour in Khayelitsha.
The application was heard in the Western Cape High Court yesterday, with Mthethwa’s advocate Norman Arendse arguing that Premier Helen Zille had no Constitutional power to summons the police, the police commissioner or the Minister of Police.
The hearings continued yesterday afternoon with Sean Rosenberg representing civil society organisations and Zille.
Rosenberg argued to a full bench headed by Judge Jeanette Traverso that Zille indeed had the power to establish a commission according to Section 127 of the Constitution.
In front of a packed court, he said for the last two years civil society had been complaining that action should be taken against poor policing, the commission needed to be established as a matter of urgency and Minister Mthethwa failed to cooperate.
Comments made by the judges during proceedings gave the impression that the bench was leaning toward Rosenberg’s arguments up until the lunchtime adjournment yesterday. (subs: Thurs).
The commission headed by Justice Catherine O’Regan Commission was established by Zille at the end of August this year, at the request of civil society organizations that the apparent breakdown in the relationships between the police and the residents of Khayelitsha be investigated.
However, hearings came were halted by the court application filed by Mthethwa last month.
It is believed that a lack of trust in the police on the part of residents has led to the community taking the law in their own hands, leading to vigilantism resulting in scores of suspected criminals being stoned and sometimes burnt to death.
Before appointing the commission in December last year, Zille asked the police to respond to civil society’s formal legal complaint put forward in November 2011, by January 2012. However, when SAPS had not responded after numerous extensions, she established the commission on August 24, 2012.
Although National Police Commissioner Mangwashi Riah Phiyega has been commended by the SJC for trying to address issues they have raised following the appointment in June 2012, her tasks team’s critical report and the Commissioner’s plan to deal with the Khayelitsha SAPS were never communicated to the organizations or the Premier, stated the 11 civil society organizations who signed an open letter addressed to President Zuma, among others, yesterday (subs: Thursday).
During the demonstration in front of the High Court, organizational speakers addressed the crowd.
“The collection of evidence (by the police in Khayelitsha) is poor. That’s why most of the cases are kicked out of court”, stated Mandla Majola, civil society campaign coordinator.
According to him it is because of the lack of police action to ensure justice and security of the people that there has been an immense increase in vigilante killings in Khayelitsha and other townships.
“It’s understandable that you (the people) are frustrated. But mob justice is wrong. We have to condemn it,” he said.
The only way to improve this situation, however, was to improve the communication between the police and the victims, as well as their families and the community. Also, there will have to be improvements in basic needs, such as access to sanitation, proper housing and education. - Francis Hweshe and Nadine Ellinger