Deploying only police officers who speak Xhosa to Khayelitsha, Cape Town, is discriminatory and unconstitutional, the SA Policing Union (Sapu) said on Wednesday.
“Whilst we acknowledge that language could be a barrier in terms of service delivery, Sapu supports the notion that the deployment of officers should never be done through race or language,” said the union’s general secretary Oscar Skommere.
“We have always encouraged officers as part of the larger South African society to move with times. The new South Africa opened doors for the co-existence of all racial groups as the rainbow nation of God.”
He said the union had adopted a multi-ideological stance since its inception in 1993.
It was responding to recommendations in a report released by the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry on Monday.
The commissioners, former Constitutional Court judge Kate O’Regan and advocate Vusi Pikoli, recommended that police officers should be able to speak Xhosa.
“The commission notes that the Census 2011 makes plain that more than 90 percent of the residents of Khayelitsha speak isiXhosa as their mother tongue,” the report stated.
“In the circumstances, the commission considers that it would be desirable for members of the SAPS [SA Police Service] who work in Khayelitsha to be able to speak isiXhosa.”
The commission offered two solutions.
First, language training could be offered to police staff who needed it. Alternatively, the police service could “actively seek” to ensure new members placed in the area spoke the language.
Western Cape premier Helen Zille established the commission two years ago to look into policing in the area.
It found there was a breakdown in relations between Khayelitsha residents and police officers, characterised by a significant level of distrust among residents. It also found many inefficiencies in the way officers did their jobs. SAPA