The Western Cape Premier last week demanded answers from authorities, claiming the conviction rate of all gang-related cases in the Mitchells Plain Magistrates’ Court was a shockingly low 0.7 percent.
And a large number of cases never even reached the steps of the court or saw a verdict.
She said the “convictions crisis is a sign of a dysfunctional justice system”, and called on cops and the justice department to bring an end to this “national disgrace”.
“As it stands, the chances of anyone going to jail for gang-related crime is close to zero in Mitchells Plain, the province’s number one precinct for violent crime, drug trafficking and illegal possession of firearms.”
Her sentiments were echoed by Community Safety MEC Dan Plato.
Zille’s spokesman Michael Mpofu said they had obtained their information from the South African Police Service, who got their statistics from the NPA.
But NPA spokesman Eric Ntabazalila says he doesn’t know where Zille got her information from.
“In fact, we never provide SAPS with any statistics,” he told the Cape Times.
Mpofu said it was worrying that the NPA did not share information with police.
Meanwhile, Advocate Hishaam Mohamed, the regional head of the Justice Department, says Zille did not indicate which crimes she was referring to, and neither did she illustrate how she reached her 0.7 percent statistic.
The Development Committee (Devcom)- a forum of senior officials in the province’s police and justice cluster - also rubbished Zille’s stats.
Mohamed, who chairs Devcom, says cases dealt with at a “high level” between April 2015 and March 2016 indicated 156 verdicts, 133 convictions and 23 acquittals.
This showed a conviction rate of 85 percent, which included that of 28s gang leader George “Geweld” Thomas.
“The Premier unfortunately did not mention which specific crimes were taken into consideration, neither which databases have been used to extract the statistics from,” he says.
“It is therefore disconcerting that the Premier, without consulting the Devcom members ... states what the conviction rate is.”
Ntabazalila says Zille’s claims have shone the spotlight on just how the Department of Community Safety calculates its statistics.
The NPA will liaise with the departments involved to “understand the methodology employed and the results achieved”.