Department of Community Safety and Police Ombudsman on Western Cape COVID-19 issues

Adhoc Standing Committee on Covid-19 (WCPP)

29 April 2020
Chairperson: Ms M Wenger (DA)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

VIDEO: Ad Hoc Committee on Covid-19, 29 April 20

The Committee continued its series of meetings aimed at coordinating the efforts of the Western Cape government to deal effectively with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the province.

The Chairperson tabled a recommendation that the Health Department provide the Committee with weekly reports on the number of COVID-19 tests conducted, indicating whether there had been any delays in receiving test results from national pathology laboratories, the number of contacts traced, the number of contacts isolated, the percentage occupation of quarantine facilities, the availability of hospital beds, and whether the modelling indicated any changes to the date of the virus peak estimates for infections and deaths in the Western Cape.

A Member expressed frustration at the poor response from the Department of Social Development’s (DSD’s) call centre, and from the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), in dealing with applications for support from the community. There was a need for Members across party lines to find a mechanism, such as the proposed provincial joint command, to deal with food security. Another issue was the involvement of communities, as there were serious risks around officials from the DSD and SASSA regarding the delivery of food parcels.

The Department of Community Safety said its role during the lockdown included attendance of daily Provincial Joint Operational Centre (ProvJoc) meetings, to provide a brief report to the relevant stakeholders and to escalate provincial issues to the national JoC. It also facilitated the process of issuing “permits of essential work” in accordance with the national disaster regulations. It was currently conducting a study, together with the safety secretariat, the Department of Transport and Public Works, and the Institute for Security Studies, looking at the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on safety in the community.

Members raised concern over static roadblocks, which allowed cars to seek out alternative routes in order to by-pass them. They asked about the future role of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and law enforcement agencies, and when community police forums and neighbourhood watches would be allowed to play a part in ensuring that there was proper monitoring of not only roads, but communities as well.

The Western Cape Police Ombudsman informed the Committee that his office had finalised 32 complaints during the lockdown period, but explained that police brutality did not fall within the Ombudsman’s mandate.  

Members wanted to know why the visibility of police officers was decreasing in some areas, and increasing in others, and suggested it might have to do with the force’s vehicle fleet management challenges. They asked for an incident involving a man with a valid prescription on his way to a pharmacy in the Helderberg area being issued with a large fine, to be investigated.  They also recommended that the Ombudsman’s media and marketing strategies needed rejuvenation, as community members were generally unaware of its mandate and objectives.

.

Meeting report

Consideration and Adoption of Minutes

The Chairperson welcomed the Committee and explained the procedures for the meeting ahead. Microphones and cameras were to be switched off and used only when raising a point of order, after being recognised.

Apologies were received from Ms R Windvogel (ANC) and Mr A Fritz, Member of the Executive Council (MEC), to whom condolences were extended on the loss of his mother the previous day.

The minutes of 24 April 2020, which recorded the briefings by the Departments of Agriculture and Social Development, and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA), were submitted for adoption.

Mr D Mitchell (DA) moved their adoption, seconded by Ms D Baartman (DA). The minutes were adopted.

The minutes of 22 April 2020 were then submitted, and Ms Baartman, seconded by Mr D America (DA), moved their adoption. The minutes were adopted.

Regarding the presentation by the Premier, the submissions were predominantly questions which had been drafted to him in a letter, and responses would be received by 7 May 2020.

Members’ recommendations

Regarding the meeting which had taken place on 22 April 2020, there were additional questions from the Chairperson, Mr G Bosman (DA) and Mr K Sayed (ANC), which would be forwarded to the relevant departments for response.

The Chairperson said that she wished to table her recommendation to the Committee. It had been recommended that the Health Department provide the Committee with weekly reports on the number of COVID-19 tests conducted, whether there had been any delays in receiving test results from national pathology laboratories, the number of contacts traced, the number of contacts isolated, the percentage occupation of quarantine facilities, the availability of hospital beds, and whether the modelling indicated any changes to the date of the virus peak estimates for infections and deaths in the Western Cape. There had been no objections to this recommendation.

The Chairperson said that Mr C Dugmore (ANC) would be granted an opportunity to explain the letter that he wished to table with the Committee.

Mr Dugmore said he was not sure whether Members had read his letter, but his intention was not to go through too much detail but rather to state what had prompted him to write to the Premier. It had essentially been based on the information that had been presented to the Committee the previous week, leading on the one hand to his frustrations with the call centre that the Department of Social Development had set up and the lack of responsiveness in dealing with applications, and on the other to SASSA, and the processes that had to be followed.

He explained that a number of issues were not only related to the role of certain councillors who were currently under investigation, but also to the problem that certain councillors in various municipalities were not being kept informed about how the parcels were being distributed, and the huge number of private organisations that were involved.

He introduced the themes of preventing of the spread of the virus; issues relating to social relief and food security; and lastly, economic recovery. The letter focused on the second pillar, which related to social relief, and his concerns arose from the need for Members across party lines to find a mechanism such as the proposed provincial joint command to deal with food security. The proposal was to establish at a high level the involvement of the political parties, or all who were being confronted by requests for food. This would allow people to raise issues and conduct formal engagement on a regular basis. The proposal also recommended a monitoring mechanism comparable to the Committee of Elders, which could deal with indications of abuse in mapping systems and monitor not only what Department of Social Development (DSD) parcels were going out from municipalities, but also the impact of SASSA and the various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on the geographic information system (GIS).

Another issue was the involvement of communities, as there were serious risks around officials from the DSD and SASSA regarding the delivery of food parcels. Social distancing between government and local communities needed to be decreased, as doing so would help to get food parcels into communities and allow the communities to understand the criteria and assist them in making sure that they were involved.

There had finally been a meeting with the Premier and the leaders of the opposition parties the previous day, where there had been discussion about the proposal put forward, and agreement had been reached that a joint statement would be released after that meeting. He had received the draft, and a firm proposal by the Premier arising from the discussions looked at the issues of inclusivity and coordination around food security.

The Chairperson asked if Mr Dugmore was satisfied with the letter being discussed at the meeting, was having shared it with the Committee.

Mr Dugmore replied that there were a lot of issues that needed to be dealt with that afternoon, but he would like the Ad-hoc Committee itself to urge the Premier and the Executive to urgently consider a mechanism that would ensure better coordination and inclusion regarding food security.

Mr Bosman wanted to know if the proposal put forward by Mr Dugmore would not in fact be duplicating the work that was already being done by the Executive. He suggested that the Committee should just ask the Executive to deal with this through the Department of Local Government that the municipal joint operations committees (JOCs), as he believed that getting all of the stakeholders to sit on another coordinating forum would stretch what was already being done.

Mr Mitchell asked that the minutes of the meeting with the Premier be supplied to the Committee, as that would allow Members to make an informed decision. It would be unfair to expect Members of the Committee to agree to resolutions based on decisions that had been taken where Members were not present.

Mr A van der Westhuizen (DA) said that the one noble idea behind the proposal was the goal of moving towards greater coordination of all the relief efforts. He wanted to know why Mr Dugmore had not included SASSA in his proposal, as he believed that provincial and municipal coordination could not be done without taking into account the enormous role that SASSA played. He echoed Mr Mitchell’s view that it would be better for the minutes of the meeting with the Premier to be given to the Committee in order to know exactly what had eventually been agreed on. Lastly, he urged that when dealing with databases, confidentiality and the protection of personal information needed to be considered.

Ms Baartman said there were many claims in the letter, on pages one to three, which had not provided any evidence to support them. Apart from that, if there had been a proposal for a joint media statement, this was a matter for the Executive and not particularly the Committee, which mainly dealt with oversight of the Executive. She believed that it was a matter that could be developed with the respective municipalities and the Department of Local Government. The Committee needed to allow the work streams within the Executive and the municipal JOCs to do their work, instead of being distracted.

Mr Sayed said he agreed with Mr Mitchell regarding the minutes of the meeting, but he believed the Committee should call the Premier back to discuss the proposal and outcome of that particular meeting which had taken place. In principle, he did not agree with Ms Baartman that the Committee merely served as oversight of the Executive, arguing that the role of the Committee -- and as Members of the legislature -- was to influence the decisions and direct the manner in which decisions were taken. He recommended that the research and content team of the Ad-hoc Committee should also go and do further research on the matter, in order to engage in a more substantive discussion.

The Chairperson said that more work needed to be done, while the Committee also needed to be more cautious to avoid to intertwining the oversight work of the Ad-hoc Committee. Regarding the meeting of the leaders of the opposition parties with the Premier, they would have to look into how the Committee could incorporate those proposals, and then find another time to discuss them.

Mr Dugmore asked Mr Van der Westhuizen to read the letter carefully, as he would notice that SASSA was clearly mentioned and obviously needed to be involved. He would get the minutes of the meeting and as a matter of principle, he believed that as a Committee they had every right to make any resolution or recommendation to the Executive.

SAPS/IPID meeting re-scheduled

The Chairperson informed the Committee that unfortunately the South African Police Service (SAPS) had advised at 11h30 that they would not be able to attend the meeting, and had asked to reschedule. The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), despite several emails, had not confirmed and would not be available today. The Provincial Head of IPID had said that he could not attend the meeting unless given the go-ahead by the Acting Executive Director, and despite concerted efforts to get such approval, none had been received. SAPS had confirmed that they would be present for the meeting scheduled for the following day regarding the domestic violence and protection of the vulnerable. She suggested that the current schedule of the programme be redone to accommodate SAPS and IPID.

Mr Mitchell said that in light of the Minister of Basic Education’s announcement, which was due the following evening, the schedule may need to be amended.

The Chairperson acknowledged Mr Mitchell’s statement, and it was agreed that the education topic would be moved to the following Wednesday, and the SAPS and IPID meeting would be moved to the following Friday. This would move everything else down by two days.

She said the Western Cape Department of Community Safety (DCS) was already on-line, and the Western Cape Police Ombudsman would be on-line within ten minutes. The Committee would proceed to the formal part of the meeting.

Community Safety: Policing, Security and Police Brutality in the Context of COVID-19 

Mr Gideon Morris, Head of Department (HOD): Western Cape Department of Community Safety (DoCS), introduced his team of Mr Moegamat Frizlar, Chief Financial Officer; Mr Simon George, Chief Director: Security Risk Management; Ms L Govender, Chief Director: Management Support; and Adv Yashina Pillay, Chief Director: Secretariat: Safety and Security.

He said the role of the Department during the lockdown was:

  • Attendance at the daily Provincial Joint Operational Centre (ProvJoc) meetings to provide a brief report to the relevant stakeholders and to escalate provincial issues via the ProvJoc to the NatJoC.
  • Liaise on a daily basis between role-players to promote effective integration from a safety perspective, including providing clarity on the interpretation of the national disaster regulations.
  • Facilitate the process of issuing “Permits of essential work” as per annexure C of the national disaster regulations.
  • Monitoring of Covid-19 related court cases, such as the Strandfontein Shelter rape case and the distribution of fake news case.
  • Monitoring of cases of police misconduct through the IPID forum, focusing on criminal cases against SAPS members during the lockdown period.

With the declaration of the 21-day lockdown, certain Western Cape government (WCG) buildings had been placed under partial lockdown by DoCS from 27 March. By doing so, it could avail physical security resources to the Department of Health (DoH) for deployment at health facilities. Private security officers redeployed to DoH facilities involved Sechaba Security Services (19 officers), Executive Decisions (14 officers) and MSecure (eight officers).

The current emphasis of the safety plan had shifted as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown, and more attention had been focused on a response to this situation. Additionally, DoCS provided support to the WC Education Department with baseline data by analysing the data collected from schools, using the safety and security resilience scorecard to identify risks facing these schools.

Community policing during the lockdown involved an approach to policing which recognises the shared responsibility between the police and the community to ensure a safe and secure environment for all inhabitants. However, both community police forums (CPFs) and neighbourhood watches (NHWs) were prohibited from functioning during lockdown. The DoCS offered municipalities thee options, based on the availability in a specific municipality:

  • Activating Chrysalis graduates;
  • Deploying trained peace officers, to be paid by the district municipality (DM), using underspent conditional grants from the DoCS; and
  • Deploying NHW members as safety volunteers reporting to the municipality. The municipality had to issue the requisite permits, provide supervision and supply protective gear, which must include gloves, masks and hand sanitisers.

The DoCS had requested municipalities to prioritise deployment at high risk schools in order to reduce acts of vandalism at schools within the province. The DMs were the entry point for communication.

With the suspension of liquor licenses during the lockdown, the Department had focused on issues of non–compliance. Western Cape Liquor Authority (WCLA) inspectors had conducted 37 investigations. In terms of section 71, it had temporarily suspended 14 liquor licences. The licensees involved would be granted an opportunity to provide reasons why the order of the Liquor Licensing Tribunal should not be permanent. Further proceedings would follow and subject to investigations, if found guilty, these licencees could have fines of up to R115 610 imposed, or have their liquor licences revoked. The WCLA would work in partnership with SAPS and other enforcement agencies to continue the monitoring of licensed premises.

Members of the public could report any trading in liquor during this lockdown period by contacting the Western Cape Liquor Authority during office hours at 021 204 9805, or by email at Liquor.Enquiries@wcla.gov.za

Referring to the policing environment during lockdown, Mr Morris said the DoCS was concerned that the shortage of police resources in the Western Cape would be exacerbated if and when SAPS members became ill or were under enforced isolation for a period. Some of the most under-resourced police stations were in areas that were most affected by the Covid-19 virus. A number of SAPS stations and policing units had become affected by Covid-19, where members had tested positive. However, SAPS had adopted a protocol to disinfect an affected police station, shut it down for a period of 48 hours, but continued to provide services from another police station or at a temporary service point.

Safety during lockdown

The DoCS was conducting a study, together with the Safety Secretariat, the Department of Transport and Public Works (DTPW) and the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) looking at the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on safety. The objectives of the study were:

  • To inform safety interventions in the identified priority areas during and after the lockdown period, within the overarching framework of the Western Cape Safety Plan;
  • To make policy recommendations with respect to safety, including violence prevention; and
  • To consider how lessons learnt from the pattern of violent crime before, during and after the lockdown period could be applied within the context of the Western Cape Safety Plan.

The methodology involved the monitoring of forensic pathology data on homicides, emergency medical services (EMS) data, and City of Cape Town (CoCT) Emergency Policing and Incident Command (EPIC) data. There were also telephonic surveys with Law Enforcement Awareness Programme (LEAP) officials, SAPS station commanders, WCED officials and NGOs, with a special focus on three priority areas -- Delft, Philippi and Khayelitsha.

Discussion

Mr R Allen (DA) thanked Mr Morris for dealing with daily updates from him at work. He wanted to concentrate on liaising with the role players, and establish whether those role players included the Departments of Education and Home Affairs. He referred to the situation in Laingsburg, where there was no official Home Affairs office, and where there were road blocks, it made it extremely difficult as SAPS were unable to verify or ask for permits. This allowed many people to enter and leave the Western Cape, which obviously created safety concerns.

Regarding IPID, he wanted to know whether or not the Committee would be privy to reports that were supposedly confidential. It was deeply concerning that the media had already reported that two residents in the Western Cape had lost their lives. Action was required, and his condolences went out to the families of the two deceased. He assured them that the loss of lives were a serious matter and the public needed to be taken into confidence -- or at the very least the Committee needed to -- in order to know what was going on with the investigations, and what assistance needed to be provided to SAPS. He added that further personal protective equipment (PPE) had been given to SAPS, but the neighbourhood watches and CPF would need it as well. He asked at what stage neighbourhood watches would be able to patrol areas.

Ms P Lekker (ANC) wanted to know whether or not peace officers were being paid, or whether their services were being rendered voluntarily. She also sought feedback on how far the Strandfontein rape matter was, along with the fake news instances, and how they had been resolved.

Ms N Nkondlo (ANC) asked what the role of provincial law enforcement agencies was in regard to assisting businesses and work areas, including how adherence to permits was being monitored. It seemed that the police either did not know the regulation around the issuing of the permits, or that the permits were not being given out properly. Many businesses had been fined by SAPS and law enforcement after the businesses had been issued one permit, and the absence of an owner who may have been out to get stock during the period that law enforcement inspected shops, had led to many businesses being fined or told to close. This needed to be addressed.

Mr M Xego (EFF) wanted to know what the role of SAPS and law enforcement would be going forward to ensure that there was proper monitoring of movement between provinces, as the Western Cape had been considered the epicentre of COVID-19. Reports received indicated that there was a high rate of movement by people going towards the Eastern Cape, and that the roads were not being monitored properly. He sought further information regarding the strategy to reduce the high levels of COVID-19.

Secondly, asked what was being done to ensure that food parcels were being delivered to the correct people, commenting that in Knysna food parcels were being looted from those who needed them and ended up in the hands of criminals and this needed to stop. He also wanted to know the state of readiness of the police with regard to the protective gear, adding that the deployment of a number of people from communities worried him, as the Committee knew nothing regarding the level of safety being provided for them.

Mr B Herron (GOOD) said that everyone had seen pictures all over the social media of long queues of people who lined up outside the houses where people had been cooking meals for them in their private kitchens.  He said Mr Morris was aware that he had informed the police and provincial leadership last weekend that the approach of both law enforcement and SAPS to those spontaneous feeding schemes that were not NGOs was unwarranted, as many of those people were literally opening their hearts, homes and pockets in order to feed their neighbours.

He referred to the inconsistent approach by SAPS and law enforcement regarding the feeding schemes in different areas, pointing out that on the Cape Flats they had been allowed, but in Mouille Point the feeding of homeless people who had not been in shelters was not allowed. Surely, those feeding schemes should not be shut down when people were hungry, and the law was being applied inconsistently? The law enforcement Agencies needed to start erring on the side of compassion, kindness and humanity, even when legal clarity was not always present.

Mr F Christians (ACDP) wanted to get feedback on the letter that had been written to the National Minister of Police regarding the enabling of neighbourhood watches and their powers within communities. The slide had focused mainly on dealing with the poor communities, but he alerted them to the situation and chaos in the metros in respect of social distancing and other matters. He said there had been an increase in the looting of shops, alerting the Committee to the video he had received two days ago which showed that gangsters had targeted certain shops, and that looting had led to hungry community members to go into shops and taking what they needed in order to overcome their hunger. 

Mr P Marais (FF+) said he had received many complaints from women who feared their fathers, husbands or stepfathers, whose moods were dependant on whether or not they could get another drink. He wanted the police to adopt a tough line, and to warn these men about going to jail if things escalated or if they did not change. He suggested that the police needed to call on the assistance of other departments, or even religious leaders. He wanted to know why was it that when women and children felt threatened, they were not being prioritised. Everyone was living in a different environment, but there were situations where the same rules that existed before the lockdown needed to continue to exist during and after it.

Department’s response

Mr Morris referred to the role players, and said he first needed to explain how the Joint Operational Command Centre operated. He said that a 7h30 meeting was held where all the cluster commanders and provincial departments had to be represented, including the National Department of Home Affairs, etc. He could confirm that Mr Alan Meyer, Deputy Director-General: Western Cape Education Department, had been attending meetings on a regular basis, and that there had been a regular exchange of information between Education and the Police regarding schools that were either particularly at risk, or had been vandalised. However, some of those activities could never be predicted with accuracy, and the sooner they expanded on the role of alternatives to the police, the more success they would have with the protection of schools.

Regarding the IPID confidential reports, he could not foresee any information that they would withhold from the provincial legislature. He would first get confirmation from their legal services immediately before sending them the latest reports swiftly. They were in consultation with SAPS on the need for cloth masks, and there were some producers that may be able to facilitate that role. However, if memory served him correctly, they had helped with masks and sanitisers to the value of R300 000, but they would be used up very quickly due to need to change them all the time. He could not speak for SAPS, but according to an analysis he had seen, there was a constant challenge within the policing environment. After their consultation with the Department of Health, they would commence inspections with the aim of ensuring that the police had applied the protocols at the police station level to prevent infections. He explained that the role of the neighbourhood watches and the CPF depended on the regulations, and currently they were awaiting the new or amended regulations that would apply at level four of the lockdown.

Regarding the role of the Chrysalis and the peace officers, some of them were used in the control room to monitor the cameras, or as support at roadblocks. However, the Department left it in the hands of the municipalities to make use of the Chrysalis students that had received the prerequisite training as peace officers. They could be used only under the auspices of the local law enforcement body and the conditions of employment that existed. Regarding looting, there had been a regular exchange of intelligence, but the SAPS would be in a better position to respond on that issue.

To the best of his knowledge, social distancing was being maintained mainly by the businesses themselves, and it was being enforced by the police. He added that they envisaged mobilising the neighbourhood watches, as they had approximately 14 000 rated and accredited neighbourhood watch members that could be deployed.

Adv Pillay referred to the fake news matter, and said the accused had appeared in Court.

His next appearance had been set for 14 July.

In the Strandfontein rape case, the 36-year-old accused had been arrested but had not appeared in court. Although the State had opposed bail, he had been granted it, His next court appearance had been set for 14 May. They would continue to monitor both those cases, and any other cases as well.

Mr Morris said that due to the static roadblocks, people had found ways to avoid them. The inability to monitor meant people leaving and entering the province under the auspices of a funeral or various other reasons could not be verified, as there was no central database against which information could be checked. He had read the sentence many times at the ProvJOCs, that the police were not the ones making the law, but were merely applying the rules. The police would be able to give more details about the looting, but the looting of liquor outlets had almost stopped.

He wished that he could provide the Committee with the assurance there would no longer be inconsistencies in the application of the rules and interpretation. However, unfortunately the police were working with a group of approximately 20 000 people and were trying their best to inform them of the regulations and how they ought to be applied consistently. He expressed his appreciation that the matter had been brought to the attention of the Command Centre, as that had led to an immediate review and better understanding.

A letter had been written to the national Minister of Police, and currently they were awaiting the declaration on level four regulations. He foresaw the role of the neighbourhood watch to be one of the traditional patrolling of communities, and making sure that petty crimes -- and especially crimes involving vehicles -- were being watched.

Adv Pillay said that where any non-compliant trading was found to have taken place, the inspector had to report such incidents to SAPS, as well as compile affidavits of their own which could be used in the section 71 application process (criminal proceedings). Once the evidence had been obtained, a report would be drafted and the section 71 process then ensued, where the section 24 committee which formed part of the Liquor Licensing Tribunal would consider the matter, and if sufficient evidence existed they would either suspend the licence until a later date, impose a fine or have their licence permanently revoked. Members of the public were encouraged to report such incidents to their contact centre, which was fully operational. 

She assured the Committee that the Department of Social Development formed part of the JOCs, and while they were not able to deal with each and every matter immediately, once they got it through the structures of ProvJOCs, they indeed monitored to make sure that those resolutions reached the Central Command. 

Lastly, she stated that the 10111 call centre would be up and running again the by the next Friday. The area had been sanitised and would be ready to operate. All the centre’s phone systems in the meanwhile had been diverted to stations, according to her knowledge.

Further discussion

The Chairperson wanted to know how long the 10111 call centre had been closed, and whether the JOCs knew of any incidents where citizens were unable to make emergency calls. More understanding was needed as to whether the murder rate was not decreasing owing to a police resourcing issue.

Ms Lekker wanted to know if any consideration had been to the epicentre of the virus, and where it had existed when it came to the necessary deployment that should have been in place.

Mr Christians to know whether or not all of the 500 blue enforcement officers that were employed had been adequately trained for the current abnormal situation that everyone found themselves in.

Mr Marais read a WhatsApp message in Afrikaans regarding an issue that had been sent to him. A boy from Woodstock had to move from his current address to his new address, and had already paid his deposit, but could not do so due to the lockdown. The landlord had then stated that he would forfeit the deposit, so he had sought help regarding the issue. He added that the old and new addresses were both located within the Woodstock area.

Department’s response

Mr Morris responded that based on the forensic data, they had seen a significant drop in the number of murders. He clarified that they had not received the crime data as yet, but there had been a significant drop in the number of murders over the last three and a half weeks.

The 10111 call centre had been closed just before the weekend, but calls had been electronically transferred to the local cluster office. All the police stations had received a number of complaints from people that they could not get access. He said the police had assured them that by the coming Friday morning, the call centre would be fully operational. He explained that the information was shared with the police daily, and this was followed by a decision and conversation between the Police Command and trusted commanders on the deployment and cross-deployment of police resources so that they could divert resources as far as it was practical to the areas where the infection rate was the highest.

He said it had been announced by the Commander of the Defence Force that morning that they were currently awaiting backup, or additional resources, and clarity on the deployment of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF). He assured the Committee that the 500 blue law enforcement officers had all received the requisite training, including the unique requirements for of dealing with the disease.

Movement between houses was not permitted under level five of the lockdown, irrespective of arguments made. There could also be no evictions during that same period, so nobody would be left out on the streets. No confirmation had been received as to whether or not the movement between houses would be allowed during level four.

Mr Marais said he was shocked, as he could not believe that there was no answer, or people who could deal with the matter he had raised in his follow-up question.

The Chairperson wanted to know if there was anyone in the Department who could deal with that query, or provide clarity on it.

Mr Morris said that once the level four regulations were published, they would be able to review the matter and see whether or not people would be allowed to move between houses, and if not, under what circumstances exceptions could be made.

The Chairperson thanked Mr Morris and his team for their attendance, and excused them from the meeting.

Western Cape Police Ombudsman: Presentation on COVID-19

Mr Johan Brand, Western Cape Police Ombudsman, said he was accompanied by Ms Nadia Arabi, Deputy Director: Head of Office, and would quickly take the Committee through the short presentation. 

Referring to the Ombudsman office’s functionality and access during COVID-19, he said it was a non-essential service in terms of Regulation 11B (2), and was closed for walk-in complaints. This would change on 1 May. Complaints were received via email, social media and the office’s website. Screening and management meetings were conducted via Microsoft links, and follow-ups were carried out telephonically by senior investigators. Investigations and official correspondence were done remotely, but they were functioning effectively on a work from home principle.

He said 68 complaints had been finalised during the COVID-19 shutdown period, including those substantiated with recommendations (32), those substantiated and resolved (4), unsubstantiated (25), withdrawn (four), and there were three duplicate complaints.

Referring to information and investigations of police brutality, Mr Brand said police brutality did not fall within its mandate, but it enjoyed good cooperation from IPID and the military. In regard to general COVID-19 matters, the Ombudsman could not initiate complaints, but ensured compliance to the wearing of protective equipment and social distancing by SAPS and Cape Town municipal police department (CTMPD). Law enforcement was excluded from the Western Cape Community Safety Act (WCCSA) (Act 3 of 2013)

Discussion

Mr Allen said he wanted to focus on the complaints regarding the lack of police visibility in certain areas, and wanted to know the reasoning behind the focus being more on certain areas than on others, which was perhaps related to the broader theme regarding the vehicle fleet management. He had received many complaints and queries that concentrated on the mismanagement of police power and police brutality, and he wanted to know if any of the cases had been directed to IPID to deal with.

The Chairperson said that there had been reports in social media regarding a fine that had been issued to a member of the public who was on his way to a pharmacy with a prescription in the Helderberg area. She was not sure if the complaints had reached the Ombudsman, but if not, it could be arranged that they reached the Ombudsman to be looked at.

Ms Lekker wanted to know where cases that fell outside the mandate of the Office of the Ombudsman were sent to. What steps had been taken to investigate the issues of brutality, as well as the collection of material evidence to check whether or not they were being attended to? What measures had been put in place to ensure that those cases which fell outside the mandate of the Ombudsman were still being attended to?

Mr Christians said that the Office of the Ombudsman was not something new, and it seemed to him that not many people logged complaints. Advertising in the media needed to be done in order to inform people on the correct procedures to follow, and to let them know exactly what the Ombudsman’s Office was there for. It seemed that many people were confused. He also wanted to know what happened to cases and complaints that fell outside the mandate of the Ombudsman, and whether they were followed up on.

Ombudsman’s response

Mr Brand stated that in the beginning they had received a lot of complaints regarding police brutality, and this had led to an engagement with the voluntary Ombudsman based in Pretoria, with matters being referred to them. The complaints had been given the necessary attention. He added that they had a memorandum of understanding with the Military Ombudsman which had been signed in September 2019, so continued engagements and referrals were done on a regular basis.

He had not seen the complaint from the Helderberg community in the social media. He encouraged a complaint to be lodged by the victim of the incident, or by a Member of the Committee. He said the Office followed up with the complainants, and then had to investigate if they were provided with feedback. Section 17 of the Community Safety act stated that the Ombudsman had to refer complainants to the relevant agencies that would be better positioned to deal with the complaints, and that was exactly what they were doing when it came down to cases of law enforcement involving people within the Western Cape.

Regarding police brutality, what they had done was to assist with the registering of the complaint by the complainant up until the stage where the complaint had been settled, or was officially over. He said they had just received their annual report back from the editors, which needed to be submitted by the end of business following day to the Provincial Ministry. This indicated they had a 70% increase in complaints from the 2018/19 to the 2019/20 financial year -- an increase in complaints from 433 to 738.

Regarding marketing and advertising campaigns, the Office had spent a large amount of money on radio and on visiting communities, and he was about to conclude his year’s programme in Vredenburg before COVID-19. He was happy that they had managed to reach more people, but there was a lot of work which needed to be put into their marketing strategy. Members were more than welcome to contact him directly if there were any individual methods which they wanted him to look at, as he had left his contact details with the Procedural Officer.

The Chairperson thanked Mr Brand and his team for their attendance and presentation, and were allowed to exit the meeting. 

Programme planning

The Chairperson said that tomorrow the Committee would be seeing the South African Police Services (SAPS) on the matter of domestic violence; the Department of Social Development (DSD); the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF); and the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA). She then proposed that a joint three-hour meeting be scheduled with Department of Correctional Services, the SANDF, SAPS and IPID.

Mr Allen supported the proposal by the Chairperson, commenting that he too felt he had questions for the entities proposed by the Chairperson.

The Chairperson said that the current draft programme would be rejected, and a new draft programme would be circulated to Members to look at tomorrow.

The meeting was adjourned.

Audio

No related

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: