DA urges SAPS to ensure full accountability against officials who turned away family wanting to report their autistic child missing

Issued by Zakhele Mbhele MP – DA Shadow Minister of Police
14 May 2018 in News

This statement follows our visit to the Mamelodi SAPS Station today by DA Shadow Minister of Police, Zakhele Mbhele MP and Member of Gauteng Legislature, Adriana Randall MPL.

 Please find attached soundbites in English and IsiZulu by Mr Mbhele.

Today the DA visited the Mamelodi Police Station following reports that the police initially refused to open a missing persons case for the family of a ten-year-old autistic girl, Katlego “Katli” Joja who was later found dead in a river.

The DA sends our heartfelt condolences to the Joja family who had to bury their young ‘Katli’ at the weekend.

The DA conducted an oversight visit to the police station to get to the bottom as to why the police allegedly turned away a family of an autistic child with the excuse that they “have to wait 48 hours”.

The police cannot turn anyone who wishes to report a missing person away, let alone the distressed family of a missing special needs child.

The fact that this reportedly happened highlights the under-training and soft-on-accountability culture in the police service that fosters lax standards of unprofessional conduct.

It is for this reason that the DA calls on the police to institute disciplinary proceedings against the SAPS officials who neglected their duty to assist Katli’s family.

We were pleased to hear from station and cluster management present at our oversight meeting today that they are taking the matter seriously: notices of disciplinary action were served last Monday on members who were on duty at the Community Service Centre at the time that the Joja family came to report missing Katlego and the station management are awaiting statements from the family to enable the disciplinary process to get underway.

The DA urges that the SAPS ensures full accountability for those found guilty of misconduct.

It is the police’s duty to protect the most the vulnerable in our society, especially our children.

It is an indictment on the ANC government and the SAPS top brass which continues to fail our people due to the under-resourced and under-trained police service. Despite the failings of top leadership, the DA does wish to acknowledge the rapid response and massive activation of resources mounted once station management was made aware of the initial failings by the frontline junior officers a little later that same day namely that:

  • vehicles were dispatched and search-and-rescue dogs brought in from the Thursday night;
  • 2 houses of traditional healers were searched to eliminate the  suspicion of muti murder and a helicopter search was activated;
  • a mass pamphlet/flyer drive was implemented and normal procedures were followed of checking with health facilities and neighbouring police stations, including the mobilisation of resources from outside the station precinct; and
  • additionally on the day that Katlego was found, the station communications officer visited churches to appeal for information and, once Katlego was found, the EHW (Employee Health & Wellness) service of the SAPS was brought in to offer counselling to the family.

The DA will continue mounting pressure on Police Minister Bheki Cele to ensure that no child faces undue risk due to the police’s inability to ensure safety in our communities.