Extract from the opening statement of Advocate Ncumisa Mayosi’s to the:

Commission of Inquiry into allegations of police inefficiency and a breakdown of relations between the community and the police in Khayelitsha

on behalf of the complainant organisations:

This Commission of Inquiry was established following complaints lodged with the Premier of the Western Cape by civil society organisations about police inefficiency in Khayelitsha, as well as a breakdown in relations between the police and members of that community.

Since 2003 [the complainant organisations] have held more than one hundred demonstrations, pickets, marches and other forms of protest against the continued failures of the Khayelitsha police as well as the greater criminal justice system. The organisations have submitted numerous petitions and memoranda to various levels of government in this regard. These were invariably ignored. There have been sustained and coordinated efforts from various sectors of the Khayelitsha community for action to be taken by government agencies, including the police, to improve the situation.

Ultimately the civil society organisations were compelled to request the Premier to appoint a judicial commission of inquiry in terms of s 206(5) of the Constitution to investigate policing in Khayelitsha, driven by their shared conviction, gained through ongoing work with the residents of Khayelitsha, that the community does not have access to adequate policing or support for victims of crime.

Given this background, the beginning of the public hearings of this Commission into the matters complained of has come not a moment too soon for the residents of Khayelitsha. For, to borrow a phrase from the judgement of the Deputy Judge President of the Constitutional Court, Justice Moseneke when dismissing the Minister of Police’s attempt to, among other things, have the establishment of this Commission of Inquiry declared unconstitutional, “the rights and interests of these [approximately 750 000] residents [of Khayelitsha] lie at the heart of this dispute.”

It is important therefore to remind ourselves throughout the workings of this Commission of Inquiry; lest we all forget as we perform our various roles towards its proper functioning; that this Commission is about the interests of real people who have names; families; aspirations; and are entitled to the same constitutional protections as you and I. The members of the Khayelitsha community who have been directly and indirectly affected by police inefficiency are too many to call out here by name. They include Zoliswa Nkonyana; Makhosandile Scare Qezo; Angy Peter; Nandipha Makeke; Lorna Mlofana and their families and friends. Some of these families are here today. They wish to tell this Commission that although it may be too late for Zoliswa and Nandipha to enjoy the most basic of human rights – the right to life; human dignity; equality; freedom and security of person - it is not too late for their families and fellow members of the Khayelitsha community. These families wish to address the SAPS members present here today; the officials from the City; DOC; the national prosecuting authority and those responsible for the administration of the courts in Khayelitsha. These families wish to say that they have come to this Commission because their families have paid the ultimate price of the failure by state agencies to meet their constitutional obligations to them, and they believe that their families and their community deserve better.

We must not forget that the Commission seeks to look into testimonies borne of the daily experiences by members of this community of their relationship with SAPS and other functionaries in the criminal justice system. Those testimonies speak to repeated infringements of this community’s constitutional rights to equality; human dignity; life; freedom and security of the person, privacy, movement, property, housing, access to courts as well as the rights given to arrested, detained and accused persons.

And as the Commission begins to look into the issues complained of by this community, it is also important to acknowledge the historic nature of this moment and the process about to unfold. This is the first time in its history that civil society has used the Constitution of  the Republic in such a manner in the advancement of core and central constitutional rights. This is no small victory for the women, men and children who make up the
Khayelitsha community, for it is for the protection and vindication of the rights of ordinary individuals that our Constitution came into being.

…For years people have felt that their cries are not heard, they have felt forgotten, let down, ignored, that their voices don’t count, that their rights are not important – this process has the potential to bring some form of healing and catharsis, a new hope for a better dispensation. But this is not enough. We know that police and communities have to work in concert if we are ever to achieve safety – and it is the hope that this Commission will contribute to mending this relationship, and emerge with practical recommendations to improve safety, justice and the conditions under which police work. The success of the fight against crime in Khayelitsha and elsewhere in our country depends on the existence of a working partnership and on-going joint cooperation between the community and members SAPS. The community of Khayelitsha and the complainant organisations are committed to the success of this partnership.

The full text can be downloaded here: English | isiXhosa