This is a victory for the community of Khayelitsha and the Campaign for Safe Communities. It will allow for the beginning of a reconciliation process between the police and communities, as well as improved policing in Khayelitsha.
The commission came about after civil society organisations and Khayelitsha community members became outraged about the lack of adequate policing in Khayelitsha. Community organisations attempted repeatedly over the course of a decade to engage with the police to address policing problems in the area, but to no avail.
BACKGROUND OF THIS CASE:
A group of civil society organisations (the Treatment Action Campaign, the Social Justice Coalition, Equal Education, Free Gender, the Triangle Project, and Ndifuna Ukwazi (Dare to Know)) lodged an official complaint with Western Cape Premier Helen Zille on 28 November 2011. The complaint was based on section 206 (5) of the Constitution. This section gives the provincial authorities the power to set up a commission of inquiry into complaints of police inefficiency.
Premier Zille appointed such a commission in August 2012, led by former Constitutional Court Justice Kate O’Regan and advocate Vusi Pikoli. By November, five organisations (the Social Justice Coalition, together with Ndifuna Ukwazi, the Treatment Action Campaign, Equal Education and the Triangle Project) had submitted 70 affidavits from community members, as well as 10 affidavits by expert witnesses testifying to crime and police inefficiency in Khayelitsha.
However, at this point, National Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa approached the Western Cape High Court with an urgent application for an interdict to halt the commission. Police argued that subpoenas on their members to give evidence to the commission would harm their dignity and interfere with their operations. The court dismissed the application with costs in January. However, that month, the police lodged an appeal with the Constitutional Court to review the High Court ruling.
CONSTITUTIONAL COURT JUDGEMENT:
In a unanimous judgement by Moseneke DCJ, the Constitutional Court held that section 206(5) accords a province the power to establish a commission of inquiry into policing, and Premier Zille now has to “ take reasonable steps to shield the residents of Khayelitsha from an unrelenting invasion of their fundamental rights as a result of the alleged police inefficiency”. The case was dismissed with costs. The Social Justice Coalition was the respondent in the case.
Equal Education supports the commission of inquiry into Khayelitsha policing: Equal Education’s members, who are mostly school-going children living in townships, including Khayelitsha, are exposed to the dangers of crime and violence every day and this affects them, and our organisation, profoundly. Earlier this year one of our members, Athenkosi Nteyi, a 19 year-old pupil from Thembelihle Senior Secondary School, was brutally murdered by two men who tried to rob him and his friend. As an organisation, the policing crisis in Khayelitsha is of grave concern to us. Many young people face several forms of violence, ranging from physical violence to sexual violence, and these crimes remain unsolved.
As such, we welcome the Constitutional Court ruling allowing the O’Regan-Pikoli Commission to continue its investigation into policing in Khayelitsha. We hope that this will be the start of establishing an efficient and effective policing service in Khayelitsha and that it will provide a chance for police to build a trusting, working relationship with communities.
For the summary judgement, please click here.
For detailed history of the commission, click here.
Joel Bregman (Social Justice Coalition): 072 769 0100
Phumeza Mlungwana (Social Justice Coalition): 074 417 8306
Yoliswa Dwane (Equal Education): 076 706 2338