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Phiyega rejects recommendations of O’Regan Inquiry

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and Provincial Minister for Community Safety Dan Plato at a press conference on Friday 7 August. Photo by Bernard Chiguvare.
GroundUp Staff and Bernard Chiguvare    

Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega has “denied, disputed or redirected to the [Western Cape Provincial Government and City of Cape Town]” every recommendation of the O’Regan Commission of Inquiry into allegations of police inefficiency in Khayelitsha.

In a press conference on Friday, 7 August, Western Cape Premier Helen Zille released Phiyega’s response to the Inquiry. Phiyega’s 22-page document, addressed to Zille, is marked “strictly confidential”, but after months of attempts by the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) and Ndifuna Ukwazi (NU) to obtain it from the Minister of Police, Zille released it today, as well as her response to it.

The Inquiry headed by Justice Kate O’Regan and Advocate Vusi Pikoli was established by Zille in August 2012. After unsuccessful litigation by the national police to halt the commission, it began its work in early 2014 and published its recommendations in August 2014. The SJC had led a campaign to establish the commission and its members testified extensively before it.

The Inquiry found that there had been a breakdown in trust between the community and police in Khayelitsha.

Zille received Phiyega’s response on 8 June. Zille informed the South African Police Service (SAPS) that “should they not respond on the classification of the document by 31 July”, she would presume it was no longer confidential. She received no response from the police and therefore released the document to the SJC, media and public.

Read Phiyega’s response to the Inquiry’s recommendations (PDF, 5MB).

Read Zille’s response to Phiyega’s document, addressed to Minister of Police Nkosinathi Nhleko (PDF, 5MB).

Read letter by SJC’s Phumeza Mlungwana and NU’s Zackie Achmat to Nhleko (PDF, 121kb).

The SJC and NU had also written to the Minister of Police requesting the document, but had received no written response. However, the organisation’s Craig Oosthuizen says that a senior official in SAPS had informed him that the “SAPS response to the Khayelitsha recommendations did not need to be made public”. When GroundUp contacted the official for comment, he said he could not speak to the media.

In response to Phiyega’s document, Axolile Notywala of the SJC told GroundUp, “It is not surprising, but it is disappointing and frustrating, especially for our members who did a lot of work around the Inquiry, who attended it and have issues with the police. For Commissioner Phiyega to disregard the recommendations is disrespectful to the Constitutional Court and to the people who face crime and violence in Khayelitsha. For the Minister not to respond, for him to send it to the national commissioner to respond, disregards his responsibilities and is a failure to comply with his constitutional obligations.”

Notywala said, “Ever since the Inquiry released the report, we waited for responses from the national and provincial police. We continued from September to June asking for responses. Nothing came of it.” Nevertheless, he said they have had numerous positive meetings with local SAPS, “but in that time there have been lots of vigilante attacks, especially in June and July in Khayelitsha. It’s been a frustrating few years dating back to before Inquiry.”

In response to Notywala’s accusation that the Minister of Police had failed to comply with his constitutional duties, Musa Zondi, the spokesman for Minister Nhleko, told GroundUp, “The Minister delegated the National Commissioner to respond to operational matters in the report. It is regrettable that this would seem it has been perceived as the Minister not abiding by his Constitutional obligations. But in any event, this view is fallacious.”

Before the release of today’s documents, NU’s director, Zackie Achmat, told GroundUp, “We have succeeded in building trust between local organisations and police. It is sad that the national police are playing politics and undermining trust that has been built up.”

In Zille’s 18-page response to Phiyega, she writes, “I am disappointed to find that each of the 20 recommendations made by the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry have either been denied, disputed or redirected to the Province and/or City of Cape Town by SAPS. The responses take various gratuitous political swipes at both the Provincial Government and the City of Cape Town and … spends much of its time attacking the rationale of the Commission …”.

Zille said in a statement, “Because we have not yet had a reply from the Minister, let alone a signed Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with SAPS, the majority of the Inquiry recommendations cannot be implemented.”

A particularly contentious point of dispute is the allocation of police to high crime areas in Cape Town. Achmat told GroundUp, “A real issue for us is to address the problem of [some high-crime townships] having much fewer police per capita and this needs to be addressed.”

But in response to the Inquiry’s recommendations to address urgently the human resources shortage at Khayelitsha’s three police stations, Phiyega wrote, “The issue of … the number of employees that can be appointed in terms of the approved budget … is a legislative matter.” She also stated, “In the recent past SAPS has provided additional allocations to the three Khayelitsha stations as the SAPS focus has always been on prioritisation of capacitation for its human resource [sic].”

Another recommendation of the Inquiry was that each police station in Khayelitsha should enter into an agreement with residents, so that the community knows what to expect from the police. This should include a guaranteed minimum level of policing, such as how often victims of crime should be updated about their case or what is a reasonable response time after a call is made to the police for help.

Phiyega’s response to this recommendation is typical of many of the other responses in the document, “This office does not agree with same as it suggests that SAPS is not committed to work with the community in the fight against crime.”

On recommendations related to procedural justice Phiyega writes, “This office is not agreeing with this as it seems to be premised on wrong fundamentals. The overall finding and this recommendation in particular suggest that SAPS is running a flawed service in Khayeltisha. It also suggests that there is inappropriate leadership not only in Khayelitsha but in the Province as a whole. This recommendation is not comprehendible.”

This article was updated after publication with comments from Musa Zondi, spokesman for the Minister of Police.

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