South Africa: Western Cape Top Cop Apologises

Cape Town — Western Cape police commissioner Arno Lamoer apologised on Tuesday to Khayelitsha residents for a lack of service delivery by the SA Police Service (SAPS).

"I'm prepared to apologise for the lack of services... to address the crime problems in the Khayelitsha area," he told the Khayelitsha Commission of Inquiry into policing in the area.

Peter Hathorn, for the complainant organisation Social Justice Coalition (SJC), grilled Lamoer and demanded an apology for the "unacceptably high levels of crime" in Khayelitsha in Cape Town.

The exchange between Hathorn and Lamoer became heated at one stage, when Hathorn again tried to get Lamoer to commit to a substantial cut in crime in Khayelitsha in the next five years.

"I'm sitting with 150 police stations... and we already have project six where we identified three of the stations in Khayelitsha which we will make priority for the next few years to address the levels of crime in this area," the general said.

Hathorn responded: "So... you are not prepared to go on record to make an undertaking... to make it an absolute priority to substantially reduce crime in Khayelitsha over the next five years?"

Lamoer replied: "My commitment is that we will prioritise the high crime areas... and we will strive to address the high levels of crime in all these priority areas,".

As Hathorn continued to push Lamoer for a firmer undertaking, commission chairwoman Justice Kate O'Regan intervened.

"Mr Hathorn, I think that is harassment, frankly. He has said he will give priority to reducing crime over the next few years," she said.

Earlier, Lamoer gave his views on vigilante killings in the area -- which the SJC claims result from people's lack of faith in the police.

Lamoer said there was no link between the vigilante killings and a lack of trust in police, adding the spate of mob killings in the Cape Town area was the work of opportunists.

"People want swift justice... and people want their belongings back," said Lamoer.

"Criminals use the same kind of attacks to eliminate their rivals."

Lamoer's testimony came on the last day of the first phase of the commission's hearings.

The second phase is set to commence next month.

The commission was set up by Western Cape premier Helen Zille after complaints about policing in Khayelitsha.

The move was met with resistance by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa who went as far as the Constitutional Court to block the commission.

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