Anger at Khayelitsha dialogue over police brutality
“Where are these human rights you speak of?”
Members of the Khayelitsha community expressed their anger during the third annual Policing and Social Justice Dialogue Series when the focus turned to police brutality.
Hosted by the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) at the Isivivana Centre in Khayelitsha, the dialogue opened on Thursday with the topic “Police brutality and Human Rights”. Panelists included Chris Nissen from the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and Mzwakhe Mdlalose from Abahlali baseMjondolo.
Mdlalose said instead of the police protecting people, they were killing them. He said when people voiced their frustrations through protests, police retaliated with violence.
“Right now as Abahlali baseMjondolo we are dealing with many cases of police brutality. A three-month old baby died in Durban because of suffocation when police threw teargas. There’s another case where someone was shot with live ammunition, and another case where a 16-year-old was also shot by police,” said Mdlalose.
He said that the police worked in the interests of politicians and not what they were taught in college. “Their duty is to protect our communities, not infringe our rights or brutalise us.”
During the question and answer session that followed, Vuyani Mngqete of Khayelitsha Peacebuilding addressed Mdlalose: “I heard everything that you said, but you just told us a list of problems and not any solutions. We hear of things like IPID [Independent Police Investigative Directorate], but we only see them on TV. Who are they? Where are they based? … Where are these human rights you speak of?”
Nissen said, “I encourage each and everyone here to come to us [SAHRC] and report … human rights violations. We are here to help.”
Two more residents then fired comments at Nissen, with one saying that they did not trust IPID and another saying, “There is no such thing as human rights. That ended a long time ago. Chris must not come here and sell us dreams.”
A representative from the office of the deputy minister of police who was expected to speak at the event about the South African Police Service strategic plan did not arrive. Organisers were unable to get hold of him, which angered residents.
Residents also raised issues of bad service in police stations when going to report a crime and police officers who were unqualified.
The dialogue runs for two days.
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