The Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) has come under fire from Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police for delays and inconsistencies in investigating serious crimes committed by police.
The body, which is charged with overseeing police conduct, appeared before the committee on Tuesday to lay down its strategic plan around chronic backlogs, the state BuaNews agency reports. The ICD was also set to give a report on the Domestic Violence Act and present a draft budget for the implementation of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) Act.
Committee chairperson Cindy Chikunga expressed deep concern at the speed with which the ICD investigated the killing of activist Andries Tatane by police at a protest in April. She questioned whether pressure from the media came in to play, as there were similar cases where families had been waiting for long periods of time, yet their cases had not been finalised.
The ICD team, comprising provincial heads and executive director Francois Beukman, said that the delays were mainly caused by a lack of witnesses to identify the suspects. The ICD said police units from various stations were sent to quell down protests and wore helmets without name tags, which made it difficult for members of the public to identify them.
The team added that at times, police leadership did not know who had been deployed and what they carried to the protest. The committee took issue with this, saying that in such cases, there should be a commander responsible for deployed units, BuaNews reported. The committee also suggested that the ICD should liaise with police when they go to protests in order to take an observer role on the scene.
“You can’t imagine murder being committed in the presence of law enforcement agents and nobody is arrested. It’s a worrying matter… I live once, but when I die and somebody is responsible for that, they should account,” said Chikunga. The committee said citizens had the right to protest, and the police had the responsibility to ensure those activities were peaceful.
However, the committee seemed impressed with the work done by the ICD in reducing its case load. In its presentation, KwaZulu-Natal province came out tops in dealing with its case load. They had 729 cases in the last financial period, which they reduced by 63% by 2011. The province with the least case load last year was Northern Cape with 13 cases, which had been cut down to almost half by 2011.
The majority of cases were misconduct, the ICD said, but the committee wanted to know whether there had been completion of serious cases such as murder.
The body said it had put measures in place to ensure provinces sort out their backlogs in the next six months.