Gqeberha – Intercape has lambasted the police in court for failing to counter the ongoing intimidation and violence directed at the company.
The long-distance coach company has again approached the Eastern Cape High Court in Makhanda, sitting in Gqeberha, this time to seek a relief order compelling the SA Police Service (SAPS) to fulfil its constitutional duties.
Intercape launched an urgent application against the police minister, national police commissioner, and five of his provincial counterparts, as well as the Hawks (Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation).
Before Judge Olav Ronaasen, Intercape argued that since instituting the current proceedings earlier this year in March, Intercape had lodged 165 criminal complaints with the police, mainly in the Eastern Cape.
“Despite this, not a single person is under arrest for these crimes and no prosecutions are pending,” complained the long-distance bus company.
Intercape said the application for relief was “borne of desperation”.
“In some incidents where drivers have been shot, they have lost control over their buses,” said Intercape.
“The same has occurred as a result of stoning incidents, where rocks were thrown through the windscreens of Intercape’s buses.
“It is simply a matter of time before an Intercape passenger is fatally injured or, worse, an accident occurs with mass fatalities.”
Counsel for Intercape Kate Hofmeyr argued that Intercape did what all South Africans were expected to do – report crimes to the police.
“Intercape even went a step further and provided extensive and carefully collated evidence of the crimes to the SAPS,” Hofmeyr stated.
“In response, the SAPS has done nothing meaningful to investigate the crimes. In some instances, the crimes have not been investigated at all.
“Where there have been investigations, they have been woefully inadequate. And by all accounts, there has been no attempt to investigate the crimes as an instance of organised crime.”
She said these failures constituted a “gross level of ineptitude and a staggering misunderstanding” of the police’s legal duties.
Intercape’s Counsel argued that this was an “exceptional case requiring the court’s intervention”.
Intercape also addressed SAPS arguments that they cannot investigate Intercape’s complaints because to do so, would amount to preferential policing; that they lack sufficient resources; and that Intercape did not furnish them with sufficient evidence.
Intercape’s Counsel said the Constitutional Court had already held that it is not for the victim of a crime to investigate its commission.
The SAPS is not absolved of its obligation to investigate crime because it has been presented with limited evidence. Indeed, obtaining evidence is precisely the purpose of an investigation.
Regardless, Intercape argued that it had compiled and provided police with extensive evidence on multiple occasions.
- copies of WhatsApp communications in which extortionist demands were made of Intercape
- bank records reflecting payments made into the bank accounts of taxi operators who had demanded “donations” to cover travel costs
- photographs from, and a recording of, a meeting with taxi operators in which they dictated the terms on which buses would be permitted to operate
- an audio recording of a telephone conversation with a taxi representative in which he told Intercape’s CEO that if he agreed to pay R5 million, the attacks on Intercape’s buses would stop
- evidence that once certain taxi operators had made it too dangerous for Intercape to provide transport services in the so-called no-go zones in the Eastern Cape, the taxi operators themselves started to provide bus services in those very same areas
“In the face of this extensive and detailed evidence, it is nothing short of staggering that not a single person depicted in these photographs or recorded in these conversations has been arrested,” said Intercape.
Hofmeyr argued that no more was required of victims of crime to report such, but that Intercape had gone to “extraordinary” lengths and well “beyond the call of duty” to provide evidence.
“In the face of the sheer weight of evidence that taxi operators are conducting a campaign of intimidation and violence, it is clear that police are either unwilling or unable to take decisive action which is in breach of their constitutional duties.”
The bus company also challenged SAPS’s stance that Intercape was seeking “preferential policing”.
“The reason Intercape has been forced to approach this court is because it has received the precise opposite of preferential policing: it has received no policing at all,” Hofmeyr argued.
“Intercape does not seek preferential treatment. It seeks simply to hold the SAPS to what the law requires of it.
“Intercape has not brought these proceedings to address its private security needs.
“It has done so in order to protect the constitutional rights – specifically, the rights to life and freedom and security of the person – of its drivers, the travelling public who make use of its services, and the general public.”
On the question of lack of resources to investigate, Intercape argued that based on the police’s reasoning, they should not be required to investigate any crimes until it has the resources to investigate all crimes.
“But if that is so, it would never have to investigate anything at all,” Intercape argued.
“The SAPS’ persistent misunderstanding of their duties, deflection of responsibility, and disregard of the seriousness of the issues at hand requires the court’s intervention.
“Unless the court steps in and holds the SAPS respondents to account, their woeful dereliction of duty will continue unabated.
“More crimes will be committed and no one will be brought to justice.”
Intercape also joined the national director of public prosecutions and the head of the investigating directorate as respondents.
However, the company merely requested of the court that the police discharge their obligations and ensure that information is provided to the prosecuting authorities in order for matters to be prosecuted.
Judgment was reserved.