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Court orders SAPS to investigate ‘organised crime’ attacks on Intercape buses

Court orders SAPS to investigate ‘organised crime’ attacks on Intercape buses
From left: Eastern Cape Police Commissioner Nomthetheleli Mene. (Photo: SAPS) | Intercape bus. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart) | The inside of an Intercape bus in Cape Town. (Photo: Flickr / Danny Foster) | National Police Commissioner Fannie Masemola. (Photo: Gallo Images / Beeld / Deaan Vivier)

The Eastern Cape Division of the High Court in Makhanda issued a scathing judgment against the SA Police Service for failing to properly investigate attacks on Intercape buses and found that five provincial commissioners had failed to carry out their duties.

An acting Eastern Cape high court judge has ruled that the South African Police Service (SAPS) and the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), also known as the Hawks, failed to fulfil their constitutional obligations to investigate and prevent crimes perpetrated against the bus company Intercape, its drivers and passengers.

Over the past few years, Intercape has reported to the police 165 incidents of intimidation and violence directed at its buses, drivers and passengers.

The order issued by acting Judge Olav Ronaasen in the Eastern Cape Division of the High Court in Makhanda on Tuesday, 6 February, further stated that five provincial police commissioners — in Eastern Cape, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng and North West — had failed to report the crimes to the head of the DPCI.

The police were directed to:

  • “Investigate each of the crimes to enable the effective prosecution of each crime individually;
  • Submit a report to the National Director of Public Prosecutions within 60 days of this order detailing all steps taken and progress made investigating each of the crimes and the status of each investigation, to enable the NPA to coordinate the investigation and prosecution of each of the crimes individually; and
  • Submit a confidential copy of the report to the Court and to Intercape.”

The five provincial commissioners were directed to:

  • “Report to the national head of the DPCI those cases opened by Intercape in respect of the crimes which reveal the presence of organised crime, crime which requires national prevention or investigation and/or crime which requires specialised skills in the prevention and investigation thereof;
  • Submit a report to the Investigating Directorate (ID) within 30 days of this order confirming that they have reported the relevant cases as directed; and
  • Submit a confidential copy of the report to the Court and to Intercape.”

The DPCI was directed to:

  • “Investigate the cases reported to it to enable the effective prosecution thereof … as national priority offences and specifically as organised crime;
  • Submit a report to the Investigating Directorate within 60 days of this order detailing all steps taken and progress made in investigating the cases and the status of its investigations; and
  • Submit a confidential copy of the report to the Court and to Intercape.”

Investigation into attacks

The judgment came after Intercape filed an application “of desperation” at the Eastern Cape High Court, requesting that the police investigate a series of attacks on its buses and report their findings and actions to a judge, prosecutor and the company.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Police don’t know what they are doing’: Intercape asks court to order an investigation into 165 bus attacks

At the heart of the application were more than 150 shootings, stonings and other acts of violence and intimidation directed at Intercape bus drivers and passengers in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Gauteng between January 2021 and February 2022. All the incidents were reported to the SAPS.

During 2022, Intercape’s buses were reportedly shot at 23 times. A bus driver, Bangikhaya Machana, died three days after he was shot at an Intercape depot in Cape Town on 25 April 2022.

AmaBhungane reported in June 2022 that Intercape CEO Johann Ferreira, in an affidavit to the SAPS, detailed how over the previous five years, taxi associations had tormented Intercape staff, destroyed their property and attempted to extort money from him and other bus operators.

Failure of the SAPS

In his 31-page judgment, Ronaasen reiterated the constitutional obligations imposed on the SAPS under section 205(3) of the Constitution, “to prevent, combat, and investigate crime, to maintain public order, to protect and secure the inhabitants of the Republic and their property, and to uphold and enforce the law.”

He found that the taxi industry’s campaign against Intercape was orchestrated.

One of the issues raised by the court related to negotiations between Intercape and representatives of the taxi industry during March and April 2022, when the taxi industry demanded that Intercape pay R5-million to two taxi associations to ensure the bus company’s continued operations in the Western Cape.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Intercape wants police commissioner, transport minister declared in contempt of court over Eastern Cape bus attacks

On the role of the SAPS, Ronaasen said: “Of particular concern is the failure by the police commissioners to refer any investigations to the DPCI as matters of organised crime which requires investigation at a national level, utilising the specialised skills of that body. In so doing, the Commissioners have acted in breach of their obligations in terms of section 16(4)(b) of the SAPS Act.”

He said that during its engagement with the NPA, Intercape discovered that the DPCI was unaware of the attacks on buses, despite Intercape’s three written requests to the DPCI.

“Of the 165 cases opened by Intercape with the police, only a tiny fraction have received the attention of the NPA and no prosecutions were under way at the time of the launching of this application.

“More disquieting was the fact that it was apparent that the police had been trying to investigate and the NPA had been trying to prosecute Intercape’s complaints as individual stone-throwing cases and not as part of the campaign of organised crime levelled against Intercape by the taxi industry — something Intercape was at pains to make clear all along,” the judgment reads.

The court found that the DPCI had ignored Intercape’s three written requests for it to get involved. It was later revealed that the DPCI command structure was unaware of Intercape’s requests.

Welcoming the judgment, Intercape said: “The court held that the campaign of violence ‘fits the mould of a pattern of racketeering activity as defined in Poca [Prevention of Organised Crime Act] and of organised crimes as contemplated in the SAPS Act’ and that the SAPS and the DPCI’s obligations in relation to such crimes have been triggered.

“For the SAPS and the DPCI, there is now no longer any room for excuses … [and] they must treat these horrific crimes as instances of organised crime, and as national priority offences which require specialised skills to be investigated and prevented.” DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Kenneth FAKUDE says:

    Do they really have to get instructions from the courts to do their job? Maybe we need to report cases to the courts before they open dockets then crime can drop.

  • Dario Siefe says:

    Very typical of the SAPS to brush crimes under the carpet as happens to ordinary citizens daily at local police stations.
    Moreover the five police commisioners should be fired or disciplined for their failure to perform their duty.

  • andrew farrer says:

    what needs to be investigated is the taxi’s owned by senior (and ordinary) SAPS members and anc polititians, then you’ll see why no action

    • Alan Wassung says:

      I think Andrew Farrer has probably hit the nail on the head!! Whether it helps, remains to be seen? In addition,, surely there is photographic evidence of these attacks where individuals can be identified and arrested?

  • jcdville stormers says:

    Investigate if high ranking police have bussiness interests in taxi industry

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    A quote:

    “Cele should not have insulted the garden boy. My garden boy is more competent than him.”

  • Vic Mash says:

    Unfortunately, ANC politicians are also taxi bosses, the SAPS refused to stop, investigate or prosecute anyone involved in this dispute.

  • Samuel Ginsberg says:

    The reality is that nobody has the guts to put the political classes in jail where so many of them belong so it’s a victory in name only.

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