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Have the police failed Khayelitsha’s residents?

by: Sheilan Clarke - 21 August 2015

Khayelitsha resident Lucille Dyosi says her neighbour was recently robbed at gunpoint. Photo: Bulumko Gana

Khayelitsha resident Lucille Dyosi says her neighbour was recently robbed at gunpoint. Photo: Bulumko Gana

There hasn’t been any progress in putting into action some of the recommendations forwarded by the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry. So we asked: What’s next in this on-going battle for effective policing in Khayelitsha and what’s it like being young and living in a notoriously violent community?

March for justice

Civil-society organisation, the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) will be marching in Cape Town from Keizergracht street to parliament on the 25th of August to force Police Minister Nhleko to act on recommendations made by the Inquiry. The organisation plans to hand over a memorandum to the minister with all the demands and recommendations that could see a more effective police force in the community.  It starts at 11am and there may be a two to three day sleep-out should the minister not respond to the recommendations.

The organisation’s Phumeza Mlungwana says a lack of resources as well as black communities not being prioritised in terms of policing are part of the problem. “The evidence from the Commission highlights why there should be a policy that should act as a guideline. Leadership from SAPS has failed the people of Khayelitsha,” she says.

“Her breast was bleeding uncontrollably”

While the authorities play politics, people are left helpless in Khayelitsha. Lucille Dyosi, 24, tells of when her neighbour was robbed at gun-point in front of her neighbour’s own home. “My neighbour normally leaves the house at 6am every morning. One day, two guys with a gun had stopped her and demanded a cell phone, money and even her lunchbox. As all people do, she screamed but no one came out to help, and that has become the norm in Khayelitsha”. Lucille even goes on to say that during loadshedding, it gets particularly scary as that’s when crime spikes up rapidly.

She also tells of an incident she herself had witnessed. A group of female teenagers stabbing a girl only because the girl had a conversation with one of their boyfriends.

“They came up to her in the street, started bombarding her with questions and out of the blue, her breast was bleeding uncontrollably. All she did was cover her head. I was there too but fear got in the way of trying to help the girl,” she admits sadly.

What we know

The Inquiry, founded in 2012, found that there was a serious breakdown in trust between the community and police. The Inquiry then released a report with 20 recommendations to be implemented in 2014. Of those recommendations are the following: all police officers in Khayelitsha should speak Xhosa, there should be a team to monitor the mental health of the officers, the number of detectives should be increased and given better training and crime statistics should be published at every station among other proposals.

Phiyega’s response

National Police Commissioner, Riah Phiyega and Police Minister, Nathi Nhleko tried to deny the establishment of the Inquiry as it would have the power for subpoena police to testify against inefficiency in the township. Phiyega slammed 15 of the 20 recommendations in her response to the Inquiry’s proposals. Axolile Notywala from SJC was surprised at Phiyega’s response but was frustrated and disappointed since lots of people had done lots of work around the Inquiry. “For Commissioner Phiyega to disregard the recommendations is disrespectful to the Constitutional Court and to the people who face crime and violence in Khayelitsha,” he says.

Have you got stories of police inefficiency in Khayelitsha? Have you given up hope and lost trust in them? Tell us your experience or what you think of government’s response below this article or on social media.




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