AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit submitted more than 20 formal service complaints against the police at certain provincial police commissioners, as well as the national police commissioner since April 2020. These complaints result from the inability or unwillingness of police members to execute their duties.
The latest complaint was on 24 August submitted to the commissioner in the case of Odette Kotze (57). Kotze was assaulted in a shopping centre in Port Elizabeth by shop owners during level 5 of the nationwide lockdown and tied down with a rope after they accused her of stealing a packet of matches.
The shop owners detained her against her will for more than two hours, after which the police arrested and detained her – not on a charge of theft, but assault. Kotze appeared in court on this charge, after which she was released on R500 bail. The magistrate recommended her to lay a charge against the shop owners after he witnessed her injuries. Kotze subsequently laid a charge of assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm, manstealing and damage to property against the shop owners.
In this case the police not only failed to obtain the closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage of the incident, but also refused to give feedback to Kotze as the complainant in the case.
The Private Prosecution Unit furthermore in April 2020 submitted a service complaint against members of the Wierda Bridge Police Station after Sanet Erasmus, herself an employee of the police, was assaulted by a female colleague. The alleged assault took place in front of a senior police official, but he didn’t do anything to put a stop to it. Erasmus submitted a criminal charge against these persons and even though the police claims that the investigation has been completed, no arrests have yet been made. AfriForum applied for a nolle prosequi certificate and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) is currently considering the application.
According to Andrew Leask, Head Investigator at AfriForum’s Private Prosecution Unit, it appears from this unit’s experience that police stations more and more use the excuse that incidents do not fall in their jurisdiction and then turn away complainants.
“The assumption can thus be made that certain police officials are simply not interested in doing their work and servicing their communities. It is worrying that we need to escalate so many complaints against the police to the office of the national commissioner as a result of the careless attitude and work ethic of certain police officials. This once again emphasises why it is so important to have institutions such as AfriForum that fulfils the role as civil rights watchdog.”