Police Prisoner Transport Report: Western Cape Police Ombudsman & SAPS Input

Community Safety, Cultural Affairs and Sport (WCPP)

25 August 2020
Chairperson: Mr R Allen (DA)
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Meeting Summary

Video: Standing Committee on Community Safety, Cultural Affairs and Sport, 25 August 2020, 09:00

In a virtual meeting, the Standing Committee was briefed by the Western Cape Police Ombudsman on the Police Prisoner Transport Report; the South African Police Services (SAPS) on the recommendations and implementation thereof; and the Honourable Wenger on reckless and negligent driving. Members were informed that investigations informed the Ombudsman’s report and a number of recommendations were made to the South African Police Services on how to better handle the issues arising from the transportation of prisoners from the Correctional Facility to Court.

Members asked what type of interventions have been done to deal with the reckless and negligent driving; how the SAPS safeguarded against attempts to escape custody; what was being done about the cases that were withdrawn; if there was a plan in place to ensure the safe transportation of prisoners; and how the flow of traffic will be managed.  Members heard that it was not possible to continue with investigations when all the necessary information was not available and the Legal Services were currently reviewing cases that had been withdrawn to see what the shortcomings were.

On the SAPS briefing Members asked why a system that would make remote Court proceedings possible was only sitting at a 2% utilisation rate; about the Audio-Visual Remand (AVR) system; why Court proceedings could not be held virtually, just like the Committee’s meetings; and what consequence management processes have been put in place for the SAPS Western Cape. The Committee was informed that the National Minister of Justice, Mr Ronald Lamola, has indicated that there should be an emphasis on AVR technology; that sirens and blue lights can be used when and if there was an identified threat to free and inmate and that consequence management will be instituted.

The following resolutions were taken:

  • The Committee requested input from the Cape Town Traffic Department;
  • The Committee requested a plan for Consequence management within the SAPS;
  • A copy of all directives indicating steps to be taken while transporting inmates;
  • The Chairperson was requested to write to the Department of Justice regarding AVR technology;
  • Members requested a briefing on AVR specifically and
  • Members requested a report on a quarterly basis on instructions and measures taken to rectify the problems

Meeting report

Briefing by the Western Cape Police Ombudsman on Prisoner Transport

Mr Johan Brand, Western Cape Police Ombudsman, said a complaint was received from a Member of the Provincial Parliament and this was investigated. The complaint was regarding the reckless and negligent driving of SAPS vehicles.

He said after the investigation, the Ombudsman’s office found that the five main roads that were affected were: the M5; the M3; Baden Powell Drive; Lakeside Road; Tokai Road; and Steenberg Road.

He mentioned four cases that have been concluded and two that are currently being investigated.

He said that some cases were not concluded because there was not enough detail to carry on with the investigation (for example car registration numbers).

The details of the cases were shown in the presentation

He said that the public was invited to comment and some comments were received. The Dullar Omar Institute expressed concern about the continued use of police vans and bakkies, as these are perceived to be relics of Apartheid. They also expressed concerns about the prisoners’ safety with regard to how the Sate’s vehicles are driven.

The residents of Tokai expressed concern about the excessive use of sirens and speed. The Cape Town Traffic Department recommended the use of ‘blue lights’ and sirens with regard to the safety of other road users.

There was also concern expressed about overloading the vehicles with inmates. He mentioned the case of an overloaded truck colliding with a minibus taxi in Mitchells Plain.

The SAPS investigator found that the taxi driver had been negligent and was charged with reckless driving. The Ombudsman’s office was of the opinion that both the taxi driver as well as the SAPS driver be charged with reckless driving. This is because the SAPS driver had violated the Traffic regulations by driving on the shoulder of the road. Basically the complaint was substantiated.

After concluding the investigation, the Ombudsman’s office recommended the following:

  • Court proceedings be conducted in terms of audio-visual remand system;
  • SAPS members that will be transporting inmates work flexi-time;
  • Provincial Instructions with regard to transportation of inmates;
  • Compliance with Instructions and Directives;
  • Ensuring of decisive consequence management;
  • Meeting with Tokai Resident’s Association; and
  • The case dockets that are highlighted are reviewed and appropriate corrective action is taken.

Briefing by the South African Police Services (SAPS)

Major-General Zingisa Manci, Western Cape Deputy Police Commissioner, said that the SAPS are busy with the implementation of the recommendations.

He said a delegation will be meeting with the Resident’s Association on Thursday (27 August 2020). An instruction has been sent out to all Cluster commanders, Station Commanders, as well as Unit Commanders. The instruction takes into account, the well-being of all road users. They are not against the use of minibus taxis to transport prisoners, but this would need further consideration as well as National Input.

He also said that the engagement with the Committee showed how serious the matter was.

Briefing by Honourable M Wenger (DA) – Complainant in the matter

Ms M Wenger (DA) thanked the Ombudsman for the report. She said this has been a bone of contention for a number of years.

The matter has not been resolved because she is still receiving complaints about reckless and negligent driving. Further complaints are being compiled and sent to the Ombudsman. She hoped that all the engagements will result in safer roads for the community.

Discussion

Mr F Christians (ACDP) wanted to know what type of interventions have been done to deal with the reckless and negligent driving.

Mr M Kama (ANC) said that the report from the Ombudsman does not include a response from the SAPS. He wanted to know how the SAPS safeguarded against attempts to escape custody. He wanted to know what was being done about the cases that were withdrawn because of the lack of necessary details.

Ms A Bans (ANC) wanted to know if there was a plan in place to ensure the safe transportation of prisoners. She also wanted to know how the flow of traffic will be managed.

Ms Wenger asked about the Audio-Visual Remand (AVR) system. She wanted to know why a system that would make remote Court proceedings possible was only sitting at a 2% utilisation rate. She wanted to know why Court proceeding could not be held virtually, just like the Committee’s meetings.

Mr G Bosman (DA) wanted to know what consequence management processes have been put in place for the SAPS Western Cape. He also wanted to know the plan for monitoring the implementation of instructions.

Responses

Mr Brand said it would not be possible to continue with investigations when all the necessary information is not there. The Legal Services were currently reviewing cases that had been withdrawn to see what the shortcomings are.

He said that a National Instruction (2006) indicated under which circumstances sirens and blue lights can be used and this is in line with the legislation. They are mostly used when there has been an identified threat to free the inmate.

With regard to AVR, he said the National Minister of Justice, Mr Ronald Lamola, has indicated that there should be an emphasis on this technology.

Major-General Manci, said that an instruction has been sent to all Clusters, Stations, as well as Unit Commanders in order to be brought to the attention of all members of the SAPS.

He also said that consequence management will be instituted. A workshop will be held with drivers and their crews, so that they can be aware of the issue. The issue of negligent and reckless driving will be part of the agenda for an upcoming SAPS management meeting.

The Chairperson asked about the collision between a taxi and a police truck. The taxi driver was charged with reckless driving. The Provincial Police Ombudsman was of the view that the drivers of both vehicles should be charged. The Chairperson wanted to know who would be responsible for bringing such an action.

Mr Kama wanted to know if there was any engagement with the person that made the decision to charge only the taxi driver. He also wanted to know why AVR was not being widely used.

Mr Brand said the traffic department could definitely play a bigger role. He elected not to express an opinion on the use of AVR as he said this was not his area of expertise.

With regard to the Ombudsman decision to recommend charging both drivers, he said this was done because the SAPS vehicle ignored traffic signs by driving on the yellow line.

Resolutions

The Committee requested input from the Cape Town Traffic Department

The Committee requested a plan for consequence management within the SAPS. A copy of all directives indicating steps to be taken while transporting inmates. The Chairperson was requested to write to the Department of Justice regarding AVR technology.

Members requested a briefing on AVR specifically.

Members requested a report, on a quarterly basis, on instructions and measures taken to rectify the problem.

Adoption of Committee documents

The following documents were considered and adopted:

  • Minutes for the meeting held 12 June 2020;
  • Minutes for the meeting held 27 July 2020; and
  • Draft Quarterly Reports (Apr-Jun ’19; Jul-Sep ’19; Oct-Dec ’19; Jan-Mar ’20)

The documents were adopted.

The meeting was adjourned.

Audio

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