Somalis targets of cops, inquiry hears

Published: February 5, 2014

671838478Somali shopkeepers have accused Khayelitsha police of demanding cooldrinks at closing time in return for allowing the shops to stay open later.

This was a finding social anthropologist Viki Iggelsden shared with the Commission into Policing in Khayelitsha, based on a research project she did into foreigners’ experience with the police in Khayelitsha.

On Tuesday, Iggelsden told the commission her research was conducted between December 12 and 16 last year. Twenty Somali nationals were interviewed.

“Many raised the issue of police having ‘an early closing time rule’, which the Somali shopkeepers did not agree with. Police would come around 8pm asking for cooldrink. The cooldrink was given in return for keeping the shop open,” she said.

The shopkeepers complained that police arrived late at crime scenes, and that they found it difficult to report crimes.

“Whenever they went to register crimes they are constantly told to come back later, or police just refused to open a case. Most of the time it is not explained to them why they could not register the crimes. One had to pay a policeman R150 to help him fetch his car which was stolen from him.”

Somali refugees claimed they were vulnerable to both criminals and the police.

“They told me about incidents where police further traumatised them after they reported crimes. They would call for police and when the police arrived, instead of investigating the crime they would want paperwork for the shop, search for firearms and steal airtime and money.”

Iggelsden advised the commission to look into the issue of foreigners acquiring firearm licences, and asked that police be trained to understand refugees’ historic backgrounds.

“They come from traumatic wars so they are politically vulnerable.”

Meanwhile, former provincial Community Policing Forum (CPF) chairman Hanif Loonat accused Khayelitsha police of being ill-disciplined. “A lesser-ranked member would disrespect a higher-ranked member. To put it simply, there is no discipline there,” he said.

He added that police absenteeism was also a problem in Khayelitsha.

“In 2012, we conducted an Easter weekend patrol project in which over 250 members of both the police and the CPF participated. At the start of the weekend we all came in numbers, but as the days went by the number of police members present dwindled.”

Loonat said when he questioned a Khayelitsha cluster chairperson about police absenteeism, he was told some were on leave and others did not report that they would not be working that day.

Loonat said over that weekend there was only one murder reported compared to the 23 murders reported during the Easter weekend of 2011 and the 17 reported last year.


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