Western Cape police chief says murder cases take time
Western Cape authorities are "jumping the gun" on conviction rates for gang crimes in Hanover Park, Cape Town, provincial police commissioner Lt-Gen Arno Lamoer said on Tuesday.
"It is unfair to allude to convictions of these murders so soon. Murder cases require lengthy time periods for the criminal justice system to take its course, and could take three years or even longer to conclude," he said.
"The comparison of reported cases and convictions is best left for a later stage to get a true reflection of the circumstances."
Provincial community safety MEC Dan Plato on Tuesday said there had been no convictions for gang-related murders or attempted murders in the suburb over the last three years.
He said it seemed as though the fight against gangsters was being lost, and demanded to know what police were doing to fix "this disturbing state of affairs".
According to the SA Police Service, 61 cases of attempted murder and 26 of murder were opened between January 2009 and March 2012. In these, 54 arrests had been made, but not one conviction secured.
Lamoer said the police intended putting a stop to gangsterism and went to great lengths to secure arrests.
He cautioned against commenting on arrests and convictions until Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa released official crime statistics in September.
Plato said he wanted to meet with the National Prosecuting Authority and the SAPS to pinpoint reasons for the low conviction rate.
He believed investigators were either too inexperienced, or that there was a shortage of seasoned investigators, or that case loads were too big.
He said the statistics proved the need for a specialised police gang unit in the province, an idea which had been rejected by both the provincial and national police departments.
Plato's other wish was to implement the Western Cape Community Safety Bill, which would apparently improve oversight mechanisms to enhance community safety.
The proposed legislation would grant the province powers to monitor the police and foster co-operation between the police and residents. It would also provide for the appointment of a provincial police ombudsman.
Mthethwa expressed opposition to the bill, saying it was not in line with the Constitution, which tasks the national police commissioner with the control and management of the police service.
Plato said he had sent a letter to Mthethwa encouraging him to voice his concerns through the proper channels, rather than through the media.