Cops favour the well-off, court rules
Equality Court says allocation of police resources discriminates against black and poor people in Cape townships like Nyanga
Martin Makasi, the secretary of the Nyanga Community Police Forum, is inundated with complaints about rampant crime in the Cape Town township that is perceived as the murder capital of the world.
Makasi escaped death by a whisker when a known criminal in the community shot at him, “just to prove a point”. Yet he says the majority of law-abiding people in Nyanga would prefer the world to know the community for the good things it has to offer, including arts and culture.
Now Nyanga and other neighbourhoods like it are pinning their hopes on a judgment handed down on Friday by the Equality Court, sitting in the Cape Town High Court, which said the allocation of police resources discriminates against black and poor people in the Western Cape.
Makasi said the CPF joined the litigation initiated by the NGOs Social Justice Coalition and Equal Education against the police minister and the national and Western Cape police commissioners.
The parties argued that the current arrangement provided more police officers to stations serving the affluent white communities with low rates of contact crimes. Relatively few officers were deployed to police stations in poor black communities already burdened by high crime.
“We welcome the outcome of the litigation,” said Makasi. “It has always been our belief that the system used to allocate police resources is unfair.
“We tried to highlight this in numerous meetings with authorities, to no avail. The court was the last resort, and we have been vindicated.
“Nyanga has a bad name all over the world because of crime. This community is rich in arts and culture and we would like our youth to flourish. That cannot happen at the moment because tourists are too scared to come here, and we hope this judgment will empower the police as well.”
Makasi added: “I am a victim of crime myself. I was shot at in 2003. Fortunately the scumbag missed me by inches. He was not robbing me, he was just demonstrating his power. He was sentenced to eight years in prison and he is now back in the community.”
The community police forum acknowledged that the police could not fight crime alone and that other spheres of government needed to “put shoulder to the wheel”.
“There are areas where police are unable to work because there are no roads and street lighting,” said Makasi.
“We can have more police personnel but if the roads are not maintained they won’t be able to do their work. Another obstacle is the issue of politicising policing – that should stop.”
Makasi said he hoped police minister Bheki Cele will not appeal against Friday’s judgment. Cele’s spokesperson, Reneilwe Seroro, said the department was still studying the judgment.
Judge Mokgoatji Dolamo said: “It is declared that the allocation of police human resources in the Western Cape unfairly discriminates against black and poor people on the basis of race and poverty.
“The system employed by the South African Police Service to determine the allocation of police human resources, in so far as it has been shown to be the case in the Western Cape province, unfairly discriminates against black and poor people on the basis of race and poverty.”
The date for the hearing on how to fix the defective allocation system is yet to be determined.
Lawyer Mandi Mudarikwa, an attorney at the Legal Resources Centre who represented the litigants, hailed the ruling as a “small victory”.
“Police came and argued that there was no intention to discriminate and that the factors that they had taken into account are factors specific to poor areas,” she said.
“Some of the factors that were included in the calculation included how many roads you have, how many hotels you have, how many conferences you have. Obviously, these are skewed towards more developed suburbs.”