The City Press article (“Cop watchdog failed”, 22 July 2012) unnecessarily gives credence to the prevailing concerns about media reportage that is driven by sensation and not based on truth, accuracy and fairness as required by the Press Code which the City Press supposedly subscribes to.
The headline screams of serious failures in the investigation of cases but no evidence of such failure is provided except for a letter from Mr Shozi, the lawyer of the KwaMaphumulo Taxi Association. What the report does not inform the readers is that the IPID has concluded its investigations in relation to the taxi violence matters and there are charges which will emanate from these investigations. For the record, the IPID was never asked to comment about the said letter from Mr Shozi or the status of the investigations into taxi violence matters.
In regard to the allegations of improper investigations in KwaZulu-Natal, it is important to note that the allegations have been made to both the head of the IPID as well as the Public Protector (PP) – the IPID will cooperate with the PP’s investigation. The head of IPID has initiated an investigation into the allegations and two officials have previously been put on precautionary suspension. At this stage there are no findings of wrongdoing either in the internal investigation or that of the Public Protector. Since none of the allegations have been confirmed through a credible investigation, a fact pointed out to the journalist, the statement by City Press that the IPID “failed” is patently false.
In addition, the IPID was never asked to comment on Mr Sipho Nene, who has since retired, closing any investigations. Does City Press know how many cases were closed by him and whether or not his actions were incorrect? The only way to tell if any wrong decisions were made is to evaluate each and every case file and not based on someone alleging that something wrong was done. Surely if the City Press was interested in fair reportage it would have got Mr Nene’s comment or at least asked the IPID for comment in regard to Mr Nene’s role in closing cases?
Section 1.2 of the Press Code requires that news be presented in context and in a balanced manner, without any intentional or negligent departure from the facts whether by distortion, exaggeration or misrepresentation, material omissions, or summarisation. Surely to support the assertion that 81% of closed cases investigated by the IPID were closed as unsubstantiated, one has to consider the number of cases (workload) against the numbers of cases closed as unsubstantiated? Using a simple calculator when one divides the number of cases closed as unsubstantiated (4 635) by the workload for 2010/11 (8 424) and multiply the answer by 100 to get a percentage, the answer is 55%. This was pointed to the journalist but City Press was only interested in the sensationalist 81%. City Press failed dismally to provide the proper context despite the IPID having contextualised the information for it. The interest was only on presenting an impression that something untoward is going on in the IPID.
If one takes the matter unsubstantiated further, is the IPID supposed to make findings against police without any witnesses to support the allegations made against them. What if, as it has emerged in the cases involving Cato Manor, witnesses were not willing talk to IPID investigators due to them having been intimidated? Who would stand up in court and testify against the officers? Any investigator worth his salt knows that cases are closed when there is no evidence and reopened when new evidence is found.
On the matter of the Quality Control Forms (QCF) that were allegedly completed en masse – we are not sure how this supports the unfounded allegations made by the City Press. Had City Press been interested in reporting the facts, it would have established that a QCF is a checklist in which the various role players in the investigation tick and sign-off the completeness of information (e.g. that correspondence has been sent to the complainant) in the file – it has no bearing on the closure of the investigation itself. In any event, if it is found before the auditors arrive that some files did not have the QCF’s, shouldn’t there be any attempt to remedy the situation?
In conclusion, the statistics reported in the various annual reports up to 2010/11 have been scritinised by the Auditor-General (AG) during his performance audit on the work of the IPID – no “misrepresentation” of statistics has been found.
The City Press has been fed a pack of unfounded allegations by a disgruntled employee and it has failed the basic journalism test of objective and accurate reporting.