KZN Commission of Enquiry into alleged police ineffectiveness exposes SAPS as “clueless”

Sizwe Mchunu, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Community Safety and Liaison

An explosive report into alleged policy inefficiency and ineffectiveness in KwaZulu-Natal – kept under wraps for six years – has labelled police officers as “clueless”, accuses police brass of blocking access to information and alleges intimidation of members of the public at open meetings held in the province.

The Commission also reveals that the vast majority of communities have a negative perception of the SAPS in the province.

The document, the official Commission of Enquiry by former KZN Premier S’bu Ndebele, was launched in2005 shortly after chaos erupted at an event in KwaNongoma when the safety and security of the community and government leaders was allegedly compromised. This was after KZN SAPS gave permission to both the ANC and IFP to hold rallies on the same day, at the same time and in the same place.

Despite the gravity of the findings, the report was only made available to members of the provincial legislature on the final sitting day of 2012, when it was dumped along with a pile of other documents on MPP’s desks. Despite the significance of the document it was not placed on the agenda, nor was it referred to by the Speaker. In fact, it was kept as quiet as possible.

The DA regards the manner in which this information was presented to Members of the House as highly suspicious. The provincial leadership’s silence says it all – the Commission’s findings are – and should be – an embarrassment.

The document reveals that the launch of the Commission left senior SAPS officials extremely rattled, with the biggest challenge listed by the Commission’s staff as “the lack of co-operation and at times obstructionist stance adopted by the SAPS”. The report also confirms that the Commission’s chairperson was summonsed to Pretoria by former National Commissioner Jackie Selebi, who expressed concern, suspicion and reservation about the Commission, which he viewed as a personal attack on him in view of the fact that policing was a National rather than a Provincial competence. Selebi said he intended to hold discussions with then Premier of KZN Ndebele and the province’s MEC for Safety and Security at the time, Bheki Cele.

The report states that once the SAPS became aware that the Provincial Directorate of Public Prosecutions was assisting the Commission, this lead to increasing tensions between the two organs of state. The Provincial Directorate of Public Prosecutions eventually declined to assist the Commission with further information.

Extremely worrying is the impasse noted between SAPS members and Commission staff, in particular the investigation team whose efforts to visit police stations and seek assistance from SAPS personnel were met with “no co-operation whatsoever”. The Commission’s attempts to follow up on public complaints were met with the response that the SAPS was under strict instruction from the office of the National Commissioner of Police not to communicate with or participate in the work of the Commission.

The report further states that Community Policing Forums (CPF’s) were only of assistance to the Commission in a few cases and that “sadly the vast majority of CFP’s were less than helpful”. The Commission found that CPF’s appeared to see themselves as being constrained by the on-going lack of co-operation from the SAPS structures. The DA regards the lack of independence shown by what is supposed to be a civilian oversight structure as highly disturbing.

According to the report, the Commission scheduled and held about 40 public meetings across the province, where 257 complaints were received from the public. In addition the Commission accessed approximately 350 complaint files from the department. The Commission also invited approximately 100 relevant stakeholders to make written submissions to it and approximately 25 organisations and individuals made submissions to the Commission.

The Commission found that the following were the main areas of concern within the KZN SAPS;

· A failure to investigate cases properly or at all

· Inadequate feedback by SAPS members for complainants and witnesses

· Police members being involved in criminal activity

· Unprofessional conduct by SAPS members’

The DA believes that civilian oversight of the SAPS in this province has been deliberately compromised. In view of this, we call on the KZN department of Community Safety and Liaison to convene public meetings at the earliest opportunity. These must include community policing forums – people need to be told exactly what is being done when it comes to oversight of KwaZulu-Natal’s law enforcement officers.

Questions that must be answered by the Premier and MEC Willies Mchunu include;

· What prosecution has or will follow as a result of the negligence and inappropriate conduct highlighted within the report?

· Are the KZN police aware of this document and, if so, what has been done to address the numerous problems brought to light by the Commission?

· How are Community Policing Forums exercising oversight?

· How is the KZN Legislature exercising oversight?

It may be six years later but KwaZulu-Natal continues to plagued by issues of service delivery, failures, skills and training shortcomings and management issues, all of which reflect on the efficiency and effectiveness of the SAPS in this province. This document cannot simply be filed away, never to be looked at again. The DA is committed to ensuring that the KZN public knows the findings of the Commission. They have a right to know what has been done to deal with the findings and they have a right to know what is being done to ensure SAPS accountability.

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