Source: South African government

On 27 October Western Cape premier Alan Winde requested the provincial police ombud Oswald Reddy to launch an investigation to answer one key question:

Is there sufficient evidence and concern to warrant establishing a Commission of Inquiry to probe serous allegations of links between gangs and members of the South African Police Service (Saps) in the province – among them senior officials?

A Western Cape High Court judgment, delivered on 17 October 2022, stated that there is evidence that gang members have infiltrated the top management structures of the Saps in the Western Cape, and are accessing key documents and strategies on crime fighting. With few arrests or prosecutions of gangsters taking place, it could be the case that this is actively aiding them to avoid the law.

Handing down the judgment, Judge Daniel Thulare noted evidence that low-ranking officers had been captured – as well as their seniors.

“The evidence suggests that the senior management … has been penetrated to the extent that the 28 gang has access to the table where the Provincial Commissioner of the Saps in the Western Cape sits with his senior managers and leads them in the study of crime, develops crime prevention, and decides on tactics and approach to the safety and security of inhabitants of the Western Cape.”

This includes penetration of and access to the sanctity of the reports submitted to the provincial commissioner by specialised units like the Anti-Gang Unit and Crime Intelligence, said Thulare. He added that corrupt police officials were protecting and assisting the gang, and interfering with the decorum of the courts and the independence of judicial officers.

“… public prosecutors who guide the investigation of organised crime and institute criminal proceedings against its members … are under a constant and permanent threat to their lives and that of their close families.”

Winde said: “This judgment has highlighted alleged horrific and deep-rooted corruption and collusion between the Saps and members of the so-called 28’s gang.”

Inaction from police minister

Upon receipt of the outcome of the ombud’s investigation, and based upon its contents, the premier will then consider further steps in this respect.

“This matter cannot be ignored any longer by Police Minister Bheki Cele and the national government. In the absence of decisive action from them over a considerable amount of time, we as the Western Cape Government are committed to addressing this critical issue,” said Winde.

He added: “We hope to finally address and stem the rot that is alleged to have set in within the Saps under Minister Cele’s watch. There is also no doubt in my mind that President Cyril Ramaphosa needs to fire Minister Cele. How much longer can the president allow him to keep this critical cabinet position, in light of these serious allegations against Saps?”

Reagen Allen, the Western Cape minister of police oversight and community safety, said: “I am horrified by the judge’s words, and I commend him for denying bail to the accused involved in this case. Various current and previous cases have highlighted the alleged corrupt relationship between certain Saps members and gangsters.”

Allen also voiced his concerns on Cele’s commitment to dealing with the problem. “The results of IPID investigations would ultimately land at Minister Cele’s door, and we know he hasn’t taken any further steps on this in the past. In the interests of Western Cape residents, who suffer gang violence on a daily basis, we therefore need to take our own steps.”

Barely a day goes by where there is not a gang-related shooting in Cape Town. In a recent atrocity, in Lavender Hill, an 11-year-old boy was shot dead in a suspected gang attack.

“It is tragedies like this that horrify me and our citizens,” said Winde. “For how much longer must our communities continue to live in fear of gangs? This court judgement puts a huge question mark on the role of Saps in possibly aiding these atrocities, when they are in fact the mandated body to be tackling them.”

Allen concluded: “The Saps officers allegedly implicated do not deserve their blue uniform, as their alleged primary aim is not to serve and protect our residents, but allegedly to serve and protect the gangs. If this is the case, it is at the expense of our communities.”