By Anees Teladia
The terms of reference for the official South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) inquiry into the violence in the Western Cape have now been established. The inquiry will be investigating the gang violence and crime that has crippled the Western Cape – violence so severe and prevalent that even the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has officially been accepted as a force multiplier. The results of the inquiry will determine the directives to be issued by the SAHRC. These directives will be legally binding and can only be challenged in a court of law.
“The SAHRC has been looking at the issue of violence for a very long time…We have had many dialogues and summits,” said SAHRC commissioner, Chris Nissen.
“Part of our terms of reference is looking at all the violence and how it impacts the rights of the people on the Cape Flats. We have been looking at identifying role players, stakeholders and areas that we need to investigate. Another part of the terms of reference is to look at the ‘crime breeders’ and ‘crime generators’ and what we can do to stop them.”
“If the inquiry finds issues which need attention, correction and prevention, it will issue directives. Those directives can only be challenged in a court of law, by way of review.”
When asked for comment on the decision to deploy the SANDF in the Western Cape, Nissen expressed some reservations but ultimately welcomed the involvement of national government.
“I have consistently been saying that the army isn’t the answer – but we welcome any national intervention.”
“However, in three months the army is gone, and then people in the Cape Flats will call the police ‘bang-broeke’…Confidence in SAPS would have fallen. It’s important that we strengthen the confidence in SAPS and the trust between the people and SAPS. It is that relationship that will truly help combat crime,” said Nissen.
Nissen also attempted to refute claims and comments made by the public suggesting that the death penalty would solve the crime problem in the province. He argued that implementing the death penalty would be unconstitutional and contrary to the values and principles promoted by the SAHRC.
Instead, Nissen suggested that the problem revolves around ineffective policing and the need to change human behaviour.
“I’ve lost a few brothers through gang shootouts…the death penalty is not the answer.”
“We need effective policing. We need police to respect our people and for our people to respect the police. The death penalty is not going to effectively deter crime.”
The SAHRC has yet to confirm an official date for the launch of the inquiry.