Continued Failures of the Khayelitsha criminal justice system
Lorna Mlofana (21) raped and murdered because she had HIV. Nandipha Makeke (18) raped and murdered. Makosomzi Rapele murdered. 7 schoolgirls raped. Children under age 7 raped. Matriculant stabbed to death. They were activists with the Treatment Action Campaign, Social Justice Coalition, Free Gender, Triangle Project and Equal Education.
Their families and comrades faced a criminal justice system crippled by numerous failures. Lost dockets, corruption, poor investigation, escaped suspects, the state not opposing bail for accused standing trial for serious crimes, mistreatment of victims, a failure to inform families of updates relating to their cases, years-long forensic backlogs and endless postponements that see cases taking years to be resolved – all are barriers to the effective delivery of justice and safety.
One specific case that represents much of what is wrong with the criminal justice system is that of Zoliswa Nkonyana. She was brutally murdered metres from her home for being a lesbian. Her case has been in the Khayelitsha courts for almost 6 years. Poor police investigation, more than 40 postponements and suspects escaping from holding cells have meant that there has been no closure for Nkonyana’s family and supporters. Two of the accused spent 5 years awaiting trial only to be released without evidence. Nkonyana’s case is scheduled to be concluded on 7 October 2011 although this is not the first time the court has made such an indication. Justice delayed is justice denied.
Such a case is symptomatic of the crumbling criminal justice system in Khayelitsha, the Western Cape and the country. Khayelitsha is an area with one of the highest crime rates in the country. Every day the rights to human dignity, to life and to freedom and security of the person are trampled on because of the failures of the criminal justice system.
In September 2010, a grouping of civil society organisations approached the then MEC for Community Safety, Albert Fritz. Highlighting cases such as Nkonyana’s we requested an independent investigation into the Khayelitsha criminal justice system. In December 2010 MEC Fritz indicated that such an investigation was being planned, but to date, nothing has been done. This shows contempt for people.
Crime continues to increase in Khayelitsha and its criminal justice system is in crisis with more than 300 murders in 2010. The rates of sexual assault and violent crime including murder and assault with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm (GBH) have increased in the past year. The true scale of crime is hard to know as many crimes are heavily underreported. In order for positive changes to be made, the extent and scope of the problem needs to be established.
Therefore, we call on the MEC for Community Safety, Dan Plato, to institute an independent investigation and complete what his predecessor has not. Government will learn valuable lessons and communities can be mobilised to improve access to justice and create safer places to live. An investigation and its findings will serve to set an example in one of the worst affected areas that can then be replicated elsewhere.
We will be holding a demonstration at the Western Cape Provincial Parliament (7 Wale Street) on Tuesday 4 October from 12h00 until 14h00 where we will deliver our formal request for an investigation to MEC Plato’s office. Please join and lend your support!
For further information please contact
Social Justice Coalition Joel Bregman on 0727690100
Treatment Action Campaign Mike Hamca on 0823628651
Free Gender Funeka Soldaat on 0820680440
Triangle Project Marlow Valentine on 0214483812
Ndifuna Ukwazi Ebrahim Hassen on 0834485885
Women’s Legal Centre Nonandi Diko on 0214245660
Equal Education Joey Hasson on 0823746555