Everybody's on their case: Cape detectives snowed under
Amid headline-grabbing murders, Stellenbosch cops juggle caseloads that are eight times the national norm
In the Western Cape it is not unusual for a detective to have more than 100 dockets piled on the desk.
In Stellenbosch, according to an officer who wished to remain anonymous, detectives often have to juggle more than 200 dockets – about eight times the national norm of 25.
The Winelands town has been rocked in recent years by headline-grabbing crimes, including the axe killing of three members of the Van Breda family, the alleged murder of Susan Rohde, the murder and rape of Maties student Hannah Cornelius and the fatal stabbing of 80-year-old Marie Verwey, allegedly by her nurse.
All four cases, some of which have attracted international attention, are being investigated by Sergeant Marlon Appollis, who was hauled over the coals by two men this week for not giving their case enough attention.In 2016, Arnold Tinashe Nota and Jeffery Ngobeni laid a charge of attempted murder against a security company contracted to the University of Stellenbosch.
Nota and Ngobeni were students at the time and claim the guards opened fire on their vehicle with paintball guns. Windows were smashed and the men say they are still traumatised.
“Detective Appollis took our issue seriously only on the first day he was assigned the case, and never bothered to further the investigation. We visited his offices several times enquiring about our case, and he was not even doing anything to get the case in court,” said Nota, who claimed he had had to drop out of university as a result of the incident.
Ngobeni said he would only obtain his degree in theology this year. “I still see the very same people who shot at me here on campus, the same people who are supposed to secure our safety,” said Ngobeni.He denied they had done anything wrong and said they were targeted for being EFF members who were “very active” in protests against the university's language policy and other “injustices the black students were facing”.
He admitted that on the night of the incident he was arrested for drunk driving, but said police had failed to produce the results of blood tests and he had never appeared in court.
It has emerged that a woman allegedly claimed the men harassed her on the same night.
Police spokesperson Captain FC van Wyk did not respond when asked whether there are enough experienced detectives in Stellenbosch to deal with the caseload.He did, however, say that Nota and Ngobeni’s case has been “registered for investigation” and that no arrests have been made.
Mireille Wenger, chairperson of the Western Cape legislature’s standing committee on community safety, said police under-resourcing in the province is so alarming that the Public Service Commission is investigating.
“Police under-resourcing in the Western Cape is a serious concern, as is the impact this has on the police service’s ability to perform its functions.“In the context of increasing violent crime, it is imperative that the police department has sufficient personnel to carry out its important mandate to detect crime and protect the inhabitants of our province,” said Wenger.
The committee hosted public hearings to “understand police resourcing challenges” and to address the affect they could have on communities.
Its inquiries culminated in a 2016 report that found that more senior and experienced detectives were required to “improve detection and conviction rates. In addition, there have been poor responses to the detective recruitment drives.”The report added: “The Western Cape Police Ombudsman stated that the detection unit is under severe strain with a constant backlog of dockets. In the Cape Town metropolitan area all police stations [with the exception of Claremont] have detective-to-dockets ratios in excess of the national norm of one detective to 25 dockets."
The report listed some of these detective-to-docket ratios. Among the highest are:
• Atlantis 1:203;
• Strandfontein 1:186;
• Fish Hoek 1:143; and
• Nyanga 1:135.
Ngobeni said all he wants is justice: “My parents are waiting for me to graduate. The arrest of the security guards will help with the healing of my heart.”