Too many bad apples: IPID report reveals unacceptable levels of criminality within the police

By Craig Oosthuizen


Over the past year, people filed 6 728 cases of criminal and professional misconduct against police officers with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID). This number represents 4.3% of active police officers (officers employed in terms of the SAPS Act).

According to IPID, its role is to “ensure independent oversight” over the police, which involves investigating criminal offences by the police and making appropriate recommendations. IPID reports to the Minister of Police and has oversight over SAPS as well as municipal police services, such as the Cape Town Metro Police.

The 2011 IPID Act imposes greater reporting obligations on the police. It provides us with a clearer picture than ever before of the levels of criminality and misconduct within the police service.

Section 28 of the Act requires IPID to investigate: deaths in police custody; deaths as a result of police action; complaints related to the discharge of a police firearm; rapes by police officers; rapes in police custody; complaints of torture or assault by police officers; police corruption, and any other matters referred to IPID by its Executive Director, the Minister of Police, an MEC, or the Secretary of Police.

IPID investigated 7 277 cases in the 2012/2013 financial year, including 549 cases carried over from the year before. The vast majority of reported cases involved members of SAPS, with only 165 cases reported against members of the municipal police services.

Most of the received cases were for assault — 4 131 cases in total. Roughly 30% were for assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm and the rest were mostly for common assault. People also reported 50 cases of torture by police officers. Unfortunately, Parliament only passed legislation making torture a criminal offence in July this year, 15 years after South Africa ratified the United Nations Convention Against Torture in 1998. This meant that until recently, cases of torture (like those in the IPID report) could only be prosecuted as cases of assault.

147 incidents of rape by police officers were reported, with 55 cases involving on-duty and 92 involving off-duty police officers. Unlike other offences, the IPID Act requires IPID to investigate allegations of rape regardless of whether the officer concerned was on duty at the time. People reported 22 cases of rape while in police custody; 13 of these were allegedly committed by police officers. This demonstrates a lack of proper monitoring and oversight of persons in custody.

Even more damning are the 275 deaths that occurred in police custody: 96 were allegedly due to suicide (35%); 80 people died of injuries they sustained before arrest (29%); and 77 were reported to have died of natural causes (28%). In most cases of alleged suicide (75%), people used prohibited items such as belts or shoelaces to commit suicide. This again demonstrates a lack of proper monitoring or custody management. Most of the deaths caused by prior injuries (91%) were the result of injuries sustained during vigilante attacks.

Although many deaths were reportedly due to natural causes, there is reason to doubt the reliability of this statistic. Previous research into pre-trial detention conditions has revealed that inmates are often not properly medically assessed when they are admitted; many inmates do not receive medical attention or are ignored when they complain of sickness and pain; and often the doctor who is said to have certified the death fails to sign the forms. This raises concerns as to whether people in custody receive proper medical attention, and whether these deaths could have been prevented.

IPID also investigates “death as result of police action”. It is important to note that each of these cases may involve more than one fatality, because reported cases refer to single incidents rather than the number of people killed. For example, the police shooting of striking miners at Marikana resulted in 34 deaths but only one case was registered, and 270 striking workers received wounds serious enough to qualify as possible attempted murder.

Last year IPID investigated 431 cases involving 485 deaths. This includes 156 cases of people killed during an arrest. 539 cases were also brought against police officers for attempted murder; again, many of these cases involved multiple victims.

IPID investigated over 120 new cases of corruption last year. Of those, 75% were for extortion or soliciting a bribe. It also received six cases for systematic corruption, defined as “an institutionalised, endemic manipulation of a system by individuals or networks/organisations, taking advantage of weakness in the processes and systems for illicit gain, where there are leadership deficiencies, collusion and/or abuse of power.”

Once IPID completes a criminal investigation and finds evidence that police officers broke the law, it refers the recommendation to the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). Of 1 088 criminal recommendations, 545 were referred to the NPA. The rest were not referred because IPID could not substantiate the allegations. Most of these referrals were for assault (384), with 46 being for death in police custody or as a result of police action, and 12 being for rape by a police officer or by someone else while in police custody. 57 police officers were convicted during the reporting period, with the majority of the convictions (27) being for death as a result of police action.

IPID made 1 044 disciplinary recommendations last year, but only managed to refer 788 recommendations to SAPS during the reporting period. The other 256 recommendations still need to be referred. 84 disciplinary convictions were made against members of the police. Some disciplinary actions were startling: some cases of murder and rape resulted in little more than a written warning. In two cases of attempted murder, the officers were only required to attend corrective counselling. This is concerning in light of a SAPS internal audit from August, which revealed that 1 448 police officers continued to actively serve despite being convicted of criminal offences.

The IPID Act, by increasing the mandate of IPID in terms of criminal investigations and reporting, offers the opportunity to ensure greater transparency and accountability in the police service than has been possible before. In order to foster an atmosphere of accountability, officers accused of criminal offences should be suspended until their guilt or innocence has been determined in court. Members of the police found guilty of a criminal offence should without exception be dismissed from the police service. This is essential to build a democratic, effective and accountable police service under professional and ethical command.

Original image of rotten apples by Alison E Dunn (CC BY 2.0).

Originally published in on 09 October 2013

Gang Violence in Manenberg: can it be stopped?

By Ian Hanson

Learners from Manenberg's Red River Primary

Girls from Manenberg’s Red River Primary pose on a bench they have designated as a ‘safe space’ in their school, and which they designed and decorated.

This year the Manenberg community in the Cape Flats was wracked by gang violence that escalated in May 2013 and has continued for at least three months. 27 people were killed and over 50 injured. Gang violence is severe and endemic in Manenberg. This latest outbreak was largely a battle between two rival gangs, the Americans and the Hard Livings, the most powerful in Manenberg; it brought the community to a virtual standstill, traumatizing people and forcing them to live in fear. Teachers at 14 schools in Manenberg banded together, declaring the situation too dangerous for students and teachers to come to school anymore, and demanded that the Department of Education take serious and meaningful action to ensure the safety of learners and educators. This group formed the Teachers Steering Committee and their refusal to teach forced the Department to close all 14 schools.

Metro Police have provided temporary security for every school, and have beefed up their presence in the community. This has contributed to decreasing the fighting around Manenberg, but did not actually stop the violence. Instead it simply pushed it into neighboring areas such as Mitchells Plain and Hanover Park. Violence died down in late August, when the Manenberg Church of Reconciliation helped facilitate a ceasefire and peace talks between the two gangs. The two gangs apologized, vowing to stop using violence to resolve conflict and to help bring peace and stability to the community.

Although the media has stopped covering the gang violence, fighting has not stopped. Valdi, from the Manenberg Trauma Centre, reported that a trauma worker was injured two weeks ago during a shooting incident at the Trauma Centre. She says that reports of domestic violence have increased over the past month, suggesting that violence is manifesting itself in different ways.

In early September, several weeks after the ceasefire, the Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum, Campaign for Safe Communities (CSC) and other supporting organisations organized a solidarity visit to Manenberg. The object of this visit was not to tell local organizations how to operate but to show support for the community, speak with community members and leaders, visit areas substantially impacted by the violence, and discuss ways this outside group could assist Manenberg-based organizations. Although many things came to light over the course of two visits on 10 and 19 September, several things of particular importance were highlighted: the vulnerability of youth to gangsterism, and the ineffectiveness of current policing and government practices for tackling gangs.

Youth are most susceptible and often most actively involved in crime in Manenberg. The government has failed the youth of South Africa: a lack of employment opportunities and underfunded educational institutions has contributed to higher gang membership. These youth have been let down by a system that views them not as victims of a fractured, unequal society, but as part of the problem. They are often presented with few alternatives to a life on the streets. Even those not directly involved have been severely impacted by it. In Manenberg, students and educators alike were highly traumatized by the fighting around them. Many pupils are forced to walk through the territory of multiple gangs on their way to school. Silver Stream High School is located on the road dividing the territory of the Hard Livings and the Americans; this is the same area where 14 of the 27 murders took place.

Without proper counseling, it is unreasonable to expect students to function at the level of those living in calmer areas, or for educators to teach at their highest ability. According to the Principal of Silver Stream, during times of intense violence school attendance can drop to as low as 10% and most students will find it difficult to focus for more than five minutes.

The effects of gangsterism on school and youth life are wide and varied. At Red River Primary School, the sports field once used for exercise has been cordoned off and has become a hotspot for gangs and drug dealers. The community as a whole lacks places to release energy. When members of the CSC and partner organizations spoke with students from Red River, it became clear how profoundly the community has been touched by gangsterism. Most pupils acknowledged that they knew someone in a gang and that they had already been exposed to drugs. Most shocking of all was how commonplace this has become to the people of Manenberg.

Hard policing is not an effective strategy to combat gangsterism. Violent and aggressive tactics do very little to curb the rising influence of gangs upon communities in the Cape Flats. This strategy overlooks the complex variables that play a role in the development of gangs; it alienates the community, gains support for gangs, and increases gang membership. By brutalizing innocent people along with gang members, the police lose the support of the community, who should be its most crucial partner in the fight against gangs. Premier Zille’s proposed response to this latest surge in gang violence (i.e. bring in the army) suggests a lack of understanding of the fight against gangs.

It is important to examine the diverse factors contributing to the development of gangs. Gangs thrive on desperation. Manenberg struggles with an unemployment rate hovering around 66%, endemic societal problems such as school dropout rates between 60-80%, overpopulation, drug abuse, and health issues. These issues must be addressed in order to move towards curbing the power of gangs. People who do not have the prospect of employment or economic opportunities often turn to the alternative economy of crime, with its own forms of societal power and camaraderie.

Community leaders have suggested alternative ways the government could make a positive impact. The government would better serve the community by investing in sustainable development plans, which are critical to solving longstanding crime problems. It should establish alternative routes for unemployed youth. Father Donovan from the Manenberg Church of Reconciliation suggested several ideas, including youth diversion programs for youth who are not enrolled in school and skills development centers for unemployed people.

It is imperative that the government shifts its focus away from the Cape Flats “war” mentality and attempts to create meaningful change within struggling communities. Civil society and community organizations, together with active members of the community, hope to effect a gradual policy change through sustained pressure and through cooperation with the state. Perhaps it is naive to believe this will happen, but it is better than accepting the status quo.

While these problems are acute in Manenberg, the scourge of gangsterism is a nationwide issue with far-reaching effects for people living in South Africa. Gangsterism cannot simply be cordoned off. It can’t be stopped through aggressive policing. Its causes are complex and multifaceted, and must be addressed through fundamental shifts in government and law-enforcement policy, properly funded and executed community development, and active citizen involvement.

The People versus the Minister of Police

By Jacques van Heerden

ToyToyingAtPeoplesCommission (1)Yesterday, the Constitutional Court dismissed a request by the Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa and others to hear a direct appeal against the appointment of the O’Regan/Pikoli Commission of Inquiry.

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille appointed the O’Regan/Pikoli Commission to investigate allegations of inefficiency at police stations in Khayelitsha and a breakdown in relations between the Khayelitsha community and members of the Police Service. The court effectively found that the Minister had no valid reasons to appeal and ordered the government to pay the legal costs of the Social Justice Coalition (SJC).

Minister Mthethwa’s lawyers argued that Zille did not have the constitutional right to appoint the commission, that she had done so without meeting her obligations in terms of cooperative governance, and that the terms of the commission were “vague and overbroad”.

A unanimous verdict written by Deputy Chief Justice Moseneke on behalf of the Constitutional Court rejected each of these arguments as “without merit”. The court criticised the minister of police for not engaging with the premier more closely, referring to nine months of “extensive correspondence” between the premier and the provincial commissioner of police, which had occurred with full knowledge of the national commissioner and the minister. They also pointed out that the minister waited until the last minute to seek a remedy, relying on the courts to referee their disagreement without first declaring a dispute, engaging with the premier, or responding directly to the community’s complaints.

The court also expressed concern about the minister’s decision to resort to expensive legal measures rather than engaging with the province or the community. Whereas both the provincial and the national governments’ legal costs are “ultimately sourced from the same public purse”, the only group who need to pay for their own legal representation are the communities.

Justice Moseneke wrote in the judgment, when awarding costs to the SJC: “The Social Justice Coalition is a civil society organisation acting in the public interest. It was one of the parties which lodged the complaints with the Premier. The complaints led to the appointment of the Commission and later to this dispute. It is now undisputed that the nature and scope of the complaints justified the appointment of the Commission. The correspondence between the Minister, Commissioner and Premier, as well as the report of the Police Service task team, show that the complaints are not frivolous and deserve to be tackled. The Social Justice Coalition should not be out of pocket for raising a matter of importance in favour of vulnerable people who are victims of pervasive crime.”

Regarding the minister’s claim that the premier did not have the constitutional authority to appoint the commission, the court found that “the competence to appoint a provincial commission of inquiry into police inefficiency and its alleged dysfunctional relations with any community is part of a constitutionally-mandated scheme through which provinces are entitled to monitor and oversee the police function within their area of remit”.

The Constitution recognises that, although the ultimate responsibility for the police belongs to the minister, provincial authorities such as the office of the premier share responsibility for effective, efficient and visible policing. Even though the province does not have direct control over the policing function, it “has a legitimate interest that its residents are shielded from crime”. Additionally, the provincial commissioner is accountable to the provincial legislature for the state of policing in the province.

As a result, the court also found that it was essential to give the O’Regan–Pikoli commission the right to issue subpoenas, otherwise it would not have the coercive powers required to compel members of the public or government officials to appear before the commission or to compel government bodies and others to provide copies of relevant documents. In the words of Justice Moseneke, “a commission without coercive powers would indeed be unable to fulfil its mandate”.

Although the terms of the commission are narrow, the community’s complaint to Premier Zille raises a wide range of issues. This includes “insufficient visible policing in the community, lack of witness protection, lack of co-ordination between the police and prosecuting services, and poor treatment of victims of crimes” as well as “the routine violation of the rights of the residents of Khayelitsha” and “the impact of high crime rates on residents including children and people vulnerable to discrimination”.

Crime is a complex problem that requires a comprehensive, carefully planned, and well-informed fact-based responses by a wide range of community members, organisations, academics, and community organisations. The O’Regan–Pikoli Commission of Inquiry is only the next step in a campaign for safety and security that has been going on for at least 10 years, and seems set to continue for many more. But it is a crucial step in engaging the communities who are most vulnerable to violent crime, gender-based violence, and other forms of criminal harm.

Originally published in on 02 October 2013

A Small Measure of Justice for People Affected by Crime in Khayelitsha

Joint press statement from the Campaign for Safe Communities, Social Justice Coalition, Treatment Action Campaign, Equal Education, Ndifuna Ukwazi, Triangle Project and the Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum (3 October 2013)

The Constitutional Court dismisses Minister Mthethwa’s application as an “unwarranted overstatement that has no merit”

The Constitutional Court judgment on 1 October 2013 has delivered a small measure of justice for the countless victims of violent crime in Khayelitsha and elsewhere in South Africa. In its judgment the Constitutional Court upheld the complaint by the Social Justice Coalition (SJC), Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Equal Education (EE), Triangle Project (TP) and Ndifuna Ukwazi (NU) saying:

“The details of incessant crime emerging from the complaint are unsettling. There is much to worry about when the institutions meant to protect vulnerable residents fail or are perceived to be failing.”

This judgment sets the first precedent on the powers and duties of the police; the right of communities to complain and hold police accountable; and the duty and right of a province to protect its residents from violent crime and hold the police to account. This means that local communities anywhere in the country can demand that provinces take the responsibility to ensure effective, efficient and honest policing.

We are expecting the Commission to start its work within the next six weeks and we are preparing to provide evidence for its inquiry. It is hoped that recommendations made by the Commission will be developed into a 5-year plan to increase safety; and to ensure proper detection, investigation and conviction of crimes. Specifically, murder, gender-based violence, hate crimes and assault. Safety means creating safe schools, streets, homes, transport, and public spaces.

Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, writing on behalf of a unanimous court, held that the O’Regan-Pikoli commission of inquiry into SAPS in Khayelitsha had to continue and reiterated its right to call the police to testify. He said:

“The police service has been entrusted with a duty to protect the inhabitants of South Africa and to uphold and enforce the law. The Constitution requires accountability and transparency in governance. It establishes a general framework for oversight as well as specific mechanisms through which a province may exact accountability. The complainants [SJC, TAC, EE, TP and NU] sought to invoke these oversight mechanisms which will be best served by a commission entrusted with powers of subpoena over members of the police service.”

The judgment dismissed SAPS argument that the subpoena amounts to ‘control over the police service’ as an “unwarranted overstatement that has no merit.”

The Constitutional Court further held that

“A Premier and the province bear the duty to respect, protect and promote the fundamental rights of people within the province. In the case, the Premier is obliged to take reasonable steps to shield the residents of Khayelitsha from an unrelenting invasion of their fundamental rights.”

We welcome the decision of the Constitutional Court and call on the police, and all spheres of government to cooperate fully with the O’Regan–Pikoli Commission in the interests of the people of Khayelitsha, who deserve to be heard.

The outcome of this judgment was the work of many SJC, TAC, EE, NU and Triangle Project activists supported by the Campaign for Safe Communities. Thank you to our legal team: Peter Hathorn, Ncumisa Mayosi, Thembeka Ngcukaitobi and Michael Bishop. We also thank the Legal Resources Centre, in particular Sheldon Magardie, and the Women’s Legal Centre.

For enquiries please contact:

Phumeza Mlungwana
(Mobile)        074 417 8306

Craig Oosthuizen
(Mobile)        071 611 7237

Yoliswa Dwane
(Mobile)        076 706 2338

Ingrid Lynch
(Tel.)             021 868 1475

Marcus Low
(Mobile)         082 962 8309


The Constitutional Court agreed that the “rights and interests of these residents lie at the heart of the dispute.” The latest crime statistics reveal that at least one person is murdered; two people are raped and almost five assaults with intent to inflict grievous bodily harm occur every day in Khayelitsha. Furthermore nationally and within the Western Cape, the police have been found to be committing more crimes than ever before.

The O’Regan–Pikoli Commission is the result of a decade of campaigning by the people of Khayelitsha as well as activists from the Treatment Action Campaign, Equal Education, the Social Justice Coalition and Ndifuna Ukwazi.

Through countless marches, protests, letters of demand and memoranda handed over to the SAPS and to national and provincial governments, the campaign for the O’Regan–Pikoli Commission has sought to draw attention to the widespread inefficiencies, apathy, incompetence and systematic failures of policing routinely experienced by Khayelitsha residents.

In August 2012 Premier Helen Zille relented and appointed a Commission of Inquiry into police inefficiency and a breakdown of relations between the community and the police, after months of trying to engage the Minister of Police on the subject.

In November 2012 the Minister of Police applied to the Western Cape High Court for an urgent interdict to stop the O’Regan–Pikoli Commission from proceeding, claiming that serving subpoenas on members of SAPS would amount to exercising control over the police.

In January 2013 the High Court dismissed the Minister’s application with costs and the Minister subsequently appealed to the Constitutional Court.

Going Forward

The relationship between the community and the police is at an all-time low, and the O’Regan–Pikoli Commission provides a key opportunity to rebuild the community’s trust in the police.

Every day in Khayelitsha, people’s constitutional rights to life, dignity, education, safety and freedom are challenged by crime.

The O’Regan–Pikoli Commission offers the police and the community a chance to reflect on crime and justice in Khayelitsha and how to properly address these issues.

Regrettably the Commission of Inquiry and the people of Khayelitsha have become subjects of an unseemly political squabble. We urge political parties not to make this a party issue, but put the people’s interests first.


CSC Solidarity Visit to Manenberg

Manenberg Street Sign
Today the Campaign for Safe Communities and other partner organisations will be making a solidarity visit to Manenberg to speak to community members about their experience with gang violence and to show our support.

Over 20 people have been killed over the last few weeks owing to gang violence. 14 Schools had to be closed in August after teachers, fearing for their safety as well as the safety of their learners, requested support from the government and threatened to walk out en masse.

Recognising that this is a crisis, the Western Cape government has since shifted R6 million from the education budget towards the deployment of Metro police in Manenberg. This has reduced the levels of gun violence on the streets, but the climate of tension and fear remains.

Community members, particularly the youth, have been deeply affected by the loss of family members, witnessing extreme acts of violence, and being directly victims of violence themselves. The youth need to be given special consideration. Trauma caused by exposure to violence makes it impossible for many of the youth to function effectively at school, and school closure means that they are significantly behind in the curriculum. Many youth also risk being caught in the crossfire while walking to and from school. Unfortunately, many of the youth also end up being perpetrators of violence, targeted for recruitment by the gangs many youths feel that joining a gang is the only way to ensure their safety.

Gangsterism is now spilling over from Manenberg to other areas such as Hanover Park, Mitchells Plain and even Khayelitsha. We must not turn our back on the Manenberg community when their constitutional rights to life, safety and education are being threatened daily.

Everyone, whether they live in Manenberg or not, has a responsibility to oppose this violence and support the people of Manenberg in the building of a safe community.

Minister Challenges Commission in ConCourt


By Craig Oosthuizen

Protesting Outside the ConCourt

For well over ten years the Social Justice Coalition, Treatment Action Campaign and other community organisations have been campaigning for safe and secure communities through countless protests, marches and letters of demand. On 6 August 2013 the Social Justice Coalition faced the Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa, in the Constitutional Court, defending the appointment of the O’Regan/Pikoli commission of inquiry into policing in Khayelitsha. This follows a decision by the Western Cape High Court dismissing Mthethwa’s application for an urgent interdict to prevent the Commission from proceeding.

In Khayelitsha and around the country, people’s constitutional rights to life, dignity and safety are threatened every day. In Khayelitsha, even walking to the toilet can be dangerous, with poor lighting and long distances leading to many people being robbed or raped. According to SAPS’ official data, in Khayelitsha at least one person is murdered every day and at least two people are raped. Women and children are particularly vulnerable. The actual figures are probably far worse, since the SAPS data only incorporates reported crimes.

Mthethwa’s advocate, Norman Arendse, questioned the Premier’s authority to appoint a commission of inquiry into SAPS; claimed that the terms of reference of the commission are too vague; and challenged the Commission’s power to issue subpoenas to SAPS personnel. The Commission was appointed in terms of section 206(5) of the Constitution, which allows a province to “investigate, or appoint a commission of inquiry into, any complaints of police inefficiency” in order to give effect to section 206(3). Section 206(3) entitles a province to monitor, oversee and promote good relations between the community and the police. Section 127(2)(e) also entitles the Premier to appoint a commission of inquiry.

Arendse argued that the Premier was exceeding her jurisdiction when she appointed the commission of inquiry. Arendse claimed that while the Commission is nominally independent, there is a clear link with the Province and its purpose is to fulfil the functions of the provincial executive. Justice Nkabinde asked Arendse if he agreed that the matters being investigated are of public concern. Arendse replied by insisting that the Commission was attempting to manage and control SAPS, and since SAPS is part of the national government the province should not be allowed to call them to account. Advocate Rosenberg, representing the Western Cape government, responded by saying that the Premier was merely fulfilling her constitutional obligation to appoint a commission, and that the Commission was not trying to exercise control over the police.

Arendse claimed that the terms of reference, or purpose, of the Commission were too broad and undefined. Rosenberg answered by pointing out that the terms of reference are clearly limited to Khayelitsha, to the complaints made to the Premier regarding section 206(3) issues, and to SAPS. The Advocate for the Social Justice Coalition, Hathorn, also contended that the terms of reference were very clearly defined.

According to Arendse, the province was only permitted to oversee and monitor the police, and therefore the Constitution did not foresee a commission with coercive powers, such as the power to subpoena. The purpose of a commission of inquiry is simply to advise, not investigate. Justice van der Westhuizen asked how a commission without power is even thinkable. Adding to that, Justice Moseneke asked Arendse what constitutional “distaste” comes from asking the police to tell their side of the story. Especially since the general understanding is that both courts and commissions issue subpoenas. Arendse countered by pointing out that, since the provincial executive does not have the power to subpoena SAPS, it is illogical that they should be able to appoint a commission with more power than themselves.

Rosenberg’s response was that section 206(5) was designed to give the province teeth, and the power to subpoena gave meaning to that provision. Justice van der Westhuizen asked how subpoenas can be seen as a form of control of SAPS, when they are merely asking for documents and evidence to be produced.

Hathorn referred to the President of the Republic of South Africa v South African Rugby Football Union[1] case. In that case it was held that the President could appoint a commission with coercive powers, where the matter being investigated is of public concern, even though the President does not have the power to issue subpoenas.

Hathorn argued that the Constitutional provision that allows the Premier to appoint a commission mirrors the provision that entitles the President to appoint a commission, and therefore coercive powers are implied. We are dealing with a special constitutional power to confer the Commission with powers the Premier does not have. According to Hathorn, a commission without the power to subpoena would defeat the purpose of section 206(5). Justice Nkabinde questioned how complaints that the police were violating laws based on fundamental rights could be dealt with if the Commission could not subpoena the police.

In his final arguments before the court, Arendse asked that the court set the appointment of the Commission aside. The justices are now deliberating, and will hopefully give a judgement soon.

Nearly 500 members of the community mobilised in both Khayelitsha and outside the Constitutional Court in Support of the Commission. Justice Moseneke reminded the court that this case is about people and their rights. Given the extremely low levels of trust by the community in the police, this commission offers a key opportunity to rebuild that relationship. Nathi Mthethwa should stop wasting tax payer’s money in court and cooperate with the commission.

[1] 2000 (1) SA 1


SJC to hold events in run up to the constitutional court case that will decide the future of the commission

Press statement from the SJC (1 August 2013)


On 6 August 2013 the Constitutional Court will hear the case that will determine the future of the O’Regan/Pikoli Commission of Inquiry into Khayelitsha policing. The SJC is a respondent in this matter. Established in August 2012, following sustained advocacy by the SJC and other Khayelitsha civil society organisations, the Commission was tasked with investigating the breakdown in relations between the police and the Khayelitsha community as well as ineffective policing in the area.

Khayelitsha’s police and criminal justice systems remain overburdened and under-resourced. Residents of Khayelitsha continue to experience extremely high levels of crime and violence. When people seek justice through the courts they are very often left with no closure. The three SAPS stations serving the area consistently record some of the highest incidences of murder and sexual assault in the country; last year there were 360 murders in Khayelitsha – an average of one every day.

There is a wealth of evidence supporting the need for an independent investigation into the systemic problems in the Khayelitsha area – including the police’s own data. We have made it clear that such a process would assist the police rather than hinder their work. However, in November 2012, with the Commission well underway in its investigative phase, public hearings scheduled and a report with recommendations due in February 2013, Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and the SAPS instituted legal action to stop the Commission continuing its work. The police also sought a review of the Commission itself, arguing that it had been unlawfully established.

The Western Cape High Court heard the application and dismissed it in its January 2013 decision. The Minister of Police appealed the High Court ruling and the Constitutional Court will be the final arbiter on the matter. The SJC is confident that the Court will order that the Commission must continue with its crucial work.

The SJC notes with serious concern the increased politicisation of issues of policing, safety and justice in the Western Cape. This dilutes resources and takes time away from the critical task of increasing safety and access to justice. All responsible for the provision of safety and justice must deter from such wasteful actions and focus on the priorities.


Leading up to the Constitutional Court date on 6 August 2013, the SJC and partner organisations will hold events in Khayelitsha to raise awareness about the court case and in support of the Commission.

These are our plans going forward: 

Saturday, 3 August 

We will assemble at Enkanini at 10h00 by the traffic circle and then proceed down Walter Sisulu Road into the informal settlement itself. We will march via Zwezwe area and past Siphamandla High School on Lindela Street to the open area where we will hold our event. The programme will include community members speaking about their experiences of crime and violence in the area.

On the day of the Constitutional Court hearing, we will be hosting simultaneous events in Cape Town and in Johannesburg.

Tuesday, 6 August – Cape Town

We will be holding an event at Oliver Tambo Tambo Hall, located on Lansdowne Road. The event will begin at 10h00 and the programme will include speakers from a number of organisations. We also so plan to connect with the proceedings at the Constitutional Court via a video link.

Tuesday, 6 August – Johannesburg 

Members from the SJC and partner organisations from Khayelitsha and Johannesburg, including the Treatment Action Campaign, Equal Education, Right2Know and Ndifuna Ukwazi, will be marching from Joubert Park at 9h30 to the Constitutional Court where we will be attending the court case. We will also be holding a public gathering outside the Court where speakers will address participants and court updates will be provided.

Members of the press are welcome and encouraged to attend these events.


For more information please contact:

Cape Town:                                              Johannesburg:

Nomlungisi Qezo     (0716426203)           Phumeza Mlungwana        (0744178306)

Ntuthuzelo Vika       (0730977082)           Welcome Makele                 (0748521118)


CSC written submission on the Green Paper on Policing

The Campaign for Safe Communities (CSC) has made a written submission to the Civilian Secretariat of Police on the Green Paper on Policing. The Green Paper was released on 18 June and the deadline for submissions was originally set for 7 July.

The CSC, supported by our partner organisations, wrote to the Civilian Secretariat requesting that the deadline be extended to 31 August. The Secretariat responded by extending the deadline to 31 July.

In all the meetings and workshops held with partner organisations and community members, the general consensus was that the timeframe given was not sufficient in order to make serious and meaningful submissions. Furthermore, the public was not given the opportunity to participate in the initial drafting of the Green Paper.

Over the last decade, frequent revelations regarding police brutality and misconduct have eroded the public’s trust in the service. According to a SAPS internal audit released earlier this week, many police officers remain on active duty despite being convicted of criminal offences. Serious transformation needs to happen within the police service in order to rebuild people’s trust. The Green Paper could have provided an opportunity to start the process of reengaging the public and rebuilding the public’s confidence in the service. Unfortunately, that opportunity was squandered by the lack of public participation.

The CSC’s submission calls for the creation of a police service that is:

  • Democratic, accountable and effective under a professional and ethical command,
  • Performs its constitutional obligations diligently and without delay in terms of section 237 of the Constitution,
  • Does not tolerate corruption, and
  • Safeguards the vulnerable.

To read the CSC’s submission on the Green Paper on Policing, please follow the link:

CSC Submission on the Green Paper on Policing 31 July 2013

Minister Mthethwa announces conclusion of Audit on active SAPS members with criminal records

Media Statement from SAPS (28July 2013)

PRETORIA – The Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa today announced that an audit on members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) with criminal offences but are still within the employ of the department, has been completed. He revealed that the audit established that 1448 members have criminal offences.

“Reaching this milestone was critical for us as this was a very complex and painstaking exercise which entailed the assessment of individual members’ records. The process began two years ago and included auditing of all SAPS employees, those employed under SAPS Act and Public Service Act.”

“It entailed thorough processing of statistical data, cross checking against the Crime Information System, personnel human resource files and finger printing. The audit process was protracted and took longer than anticipated because part of our approach on this matter was to ensure we exhaust all the avenues, be they legal, operational as well as labour relations aspects.”

“The next step is for the National Commissioner of Police, General Riah Phiyega, to act on the outcome of the audit. I have now instructed her and the management team that feedback on action should be provided to me by the end of October this year,” the Minister said.

Minister Mthethwa indicated that the audit process revealed serious challenges with regard to management of discipline within the department. It was against this backdrop that he instructed the officials to develop a long term strategy on matters of discipline and related matters, which they are busy with.

“I wish to sincerely thank the team (SAPS as well as the Civilian Secretariat for Police) which worked very hard and meticulously to ensure that this audit was completed. The process going forward will require even more dedication.”

“This is a legal process where everyone will be given an opportunity to state his or her side of the story. That said, our resolve to root out any unwanted elements within the police will never be deterred by anything, no matter how long and what it takes,” the Minister concluded.


For enquiries, please contact:

Zweli Mnisi, Spokesperson to the Minister of Police 082 045 4024

Issued by the Ministry of Police

Private Security: a law unto themselves?

By Craig Oosthuizen

The private security industry in South Africa is one of the largest in the world, with active registered security guards outnumbering police by almost three to one and eight security companies for every police station. 

Over the last few years this industry has drawn public attention, but not always for positive reasons. Images, for example, of security guards beating an elderly lady (suspected of shoplifting) in the back of a store have created a negative impression of the industry. Recent news reports of shootings by security guards have also raised concerns over gun violence and its link to the industry.

It is alarming that many media articles of shootings by private security guards reported that guards were using their personal firearms. The security industry is regulated by the Private Security Industry Regulatory Authority (PSIRA). PSIRA regulations forbid guards from using their own personal firearms while on duty. In 2012 PRISA investigated 106 armed security guards; it found that 19% of them were using their own personal firearms and at least 12% did not have proper training to use them. This is concerning because it increases the risk of injury or death because of improper use of the firearm. It is also a violation of the Firearms Control Act, which stipulates that a firearm can only be issued once the person has received proper training and been issued a competency certificate.

The prevalence of firearms and a lack of proper regulation within the industry are even more worrying when considering the concurrent evidence of criminality. According to PSIRA, 240 criminal cases were reported against members of the industry last year, and 771 cases were still outstanding.

There is currently no publicly available data about when a firearm is discharged by a guard, or on injuries or deaths because of the actions of security guards. By contrast, the police are required to make this information available to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), which publishes it annually. Private security guards are increasingly required to perform policing functions, such as making arrests or searching people. This significantly increases their interaction with the public and increases the risk that negligent behaviour will cause injury to members of the public. Therefore, a strong argument can be made for this data to be made publicly available.

Another concern is the possible diversion of firearms from the industry to criminal entities. In a 2003 parliamentary hearing, Eugene Vilakazi (then Director of PSIRA) stated that, because of capacity constraints, firearm licenses are not always cancelled when private security companies de-register. He said that in some cases companies intentionally register and then deregister to obtain licensed firearms.

The Firearms Control Act requires companies that deregister as security providers to inform the Central Firearms Registry of all its firearms and how it will dispose of them. If it fails to do so within ninety days, the police are supposed to confiscate and destroy the firearms. Tracking of firearms was raised in parliamentary questions in 2006 and 2010. Firearms are still slipping through the cracks when companies deregister. No data is currently being made available on the number of firearms being diverted from the private security industry. However, the 2008 Small Arms Survey reported that the loss and theft of firearms from the private security industry is a significant source of firearms for the criminal sector.

The Private Security Industry Regulation Act puts the obligation on PSIRA to make security companies comply with legislation and PSIRA regulations through “active monitoring and investigation.” However, PSIRA itself has serious financial difficulties that constrict its capacity to investigate and monitor security providers. They currently do not receive parliamentary funding, and the revenue comes primarily from annual fees. However, although PSIRA ran deficits of R24 million and R9 million in 2011 and 2012 respectively, the management have consistently given themselves annual pay rises significantly above the rate of inflation. The Director of PSIRA currently earns approximately R120,000 per month, while operational investigators earn approximately R24,000 per month.

These and other factors led parliament to raise serious concerns over wasteful expenditure. In parliamentary hearings in November, the Police Portfolio Committee insisted that PSIRA withdraw its 2011/2012 Annual Report to correct false financial information and agreed to refer PSIRA’s financial situation to SCOPA.

The Private Security Industry Regulation Amendment Bill is currently being tabled in Parliament. This bill should be debated as soon as possible. Although some of the proposed amendments (such as limiting foreign ownership of security providers to 49%) have received widespread criticism, it provides an opportunity to meaningfully develop and enhance regulation in the industry:

The bill would increase the oversight of the Minister of Police over PSIRA by, among other things, requiring that it report to the Minister quarterly.

It would also require the Central Firearm Registry to keep a database of every firearm issued to security providers, which would assist PSIRA to track firearms.

To promote financial accountability, the bill also requires that the annual financial statements be audited by the Auditor-General, and included in the Annual Report.

The private security industry is incredibly well resourced. However, in order for it to promote safety and security, rather than fuelling violence, it must be reformed. The industry must be held accountable to the Constitution, law and PSIRA regulations.

Private security companies, unlike most other private entities, are asked to perform functions that are traditionally within the realm of public services like the police. These actions include making arrests, crowd control, conducting searches and even investigating crime. Increased contact with the public creates more risks of abuse and violence. Private companies are not subject to the same level of oversight or reporting requirements as public entities. Therefore, there are significant risks when delegating policing powers to these companies. When these companies are asked to exercise policing powers, they should be held to the same level of accountability as the police.

Security companies should be required to report misconduct, the number of firearms in their possession, when a firearm is discharged, actions of security guards that lead to death or injury and any other statistics that will assist in ensuring better oversight of the industry. The amendment bill is the first step in this process. Civil society, members of the public and all other interested stakeholders should put pressure on Parliament to push for greater accountability in the private security industry.

Originally published in on 26 June 2013