Gauteng taxi violence task team's failures laid bare at commission

Investigators could not find 178 of 505 active case dockets, inquiry hears

05 October 2020 - 15:29 By mpumzi zuzile
The commander of the taxi violence task team says a litany of challenges within the system and detectives’ inefficiency is hampering successful prosecutions.
The commander of the taxi violence task team says a litany of challenges within the system and detectives’ inefficiency is hampering successful prosecutions.
Image: Thomo Nkgadima

The inefficiency of detectives is one of the reasons the Gauteng taxi violence task team has not been truly effective.

This was testimony at the commission of inquiry into taxi violence in Gauteng on Monday. The commission heard from the task team how a litany of challenges within the system and detectives’ inefficiency was hampering successful prosecutions and conclusions of cases.

The task team has 505 active cases dating back to 2012. More than 600 cases have been closed - due to convictions, the cases being withdrawn or witnesses no longer being willing to testify.

Task team commander Lt-Col Mohamed Bayat conceded to the commission that one of the challenges facing his team was a lack of resources. He said the team had just 12 members until they received new members on Thursday last week.

“We are at least better off now since Thursday when we received 20 new members, and eight from the old team have been placed in other units,” Bayat said.

The commission's evidence leader Hendrick Potgieter presented to the commission 25 findings in relation to how the task team has failed to manage taxi violence cases.

Potgieter told the commission how members of the task team are not properly trained to manage crime scenes, including how DNA and exhibits are not collected on time for investigations.

Potgieter told the commission that the task team sometimes failed to attend to a crime scene accordingly.

“In some cases fingerprints are not collected and CCTV evidence is also not collected and used in cases,” he said. He told the commission that investigators from the commission could not locate 178 of the 505 active case dockets. Bayat was unable to state why, and suggested they could be  with the investigating officers.

The findings, Potgieter said, were sampled from the active cases by the commission's lead investigator, Gen Vinesh Moonoo, a retired police general investigating taxi violence in Gauteng.

The commission heard how overloaded the investigations officers were, with one officer handling as many as 70 cases.

Bayat conceded to all the findings and attributed the problem to lack of resources. “We have a problem of vehicles and in some cases vehicles are old and spend a lot of time in for repairs,” he said.

He attributed the delays and lack of convictions to delays by magistrates in finalising inquest documents.

“We have about 60 cases sitting without J56,” he said. Bayat also blamed prosecutors for some of the cases not finalised.

He said that sometimes witnesses disappear and others refuse to testify.

“We had instances were witnesses were afraid to go into witness protection,” he explained.

He also blamed security companies appointed by taxi associations as the cause of the taxi violence escalations.

He said they have identified about four security companies involved in taxi violence — all based in KwaZulu-Natal.

“We have arrested a few security people and some have been convicted,” he said.

Quizzed by the three commissioners, Bayat conceded that some police officers are involved in taxi violence and one constable was sentenced to life in prison, while two are awaiting sentences. He did not give details of the cases.

He said they discovered that metro police and SAPS firearms were used in some of the taxi violence.

Bayat said most of the hitmen are from hostels, which they used for planning and hiding after committing the crimes.

A week ago, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) deputy director in Gauteng, advocate George Baloyi, told the commission that prosecutors often declined to prosecute taxi violence cases because of poor investigative work.

In most cases, charges had to be withdrawn or the accused were acquitted. He told the commission that reasons given by prosecutors for withdrawing the cases included poor statements taken by the police and in some cases just poor police investigations.

Baloyi said the longer it took for a witness to testify, the harder it was to get a conviction. Also, there was always the possibility of the death of witnesses.

Moonoo said 95% of cases were not prosecuted.

Gauteng premier David Makhura appointed the commission in September chaired by judge Jeremiah Shongwe to look into the ongoing taxi violence and killings in the province.