The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) may launch its own investigation into allegations of workers being forced to apply for a green card to access certain parts of Worcester, it said on Wednesday.
The commission’s Western Cape manager had delegated a number of staff to travel to Worcester to see whether there were grounds for an own initiative investigation, spokesman Isaac Mangena said.
The SAHRC had not received a formal complaint and had therefore not determined whether rights had been violated.
However, it believed such a system would infringe on the rights to equality, dignity, and freedom of movement.
The Daily Voice newspaper recently reported that the cards were being given to people who worked, or wanted to work, in certain neighbourhoods after a rise in break-ins and theft.
A Worcester police sector commander Sergeant Julian Plaatjies told the newspaper that he verified the work history information given by applicants.
“But normally the employer contacts us with the worker’s details. We check that the applicant has no pending criminal cases relating to our priority crimes, and then process all the details,” he was quoted as saying.
He insisted those with a criminal record were not discriminated against and that the card was not the same as a “dompas”, used during apartheid to restrict movement.
“With the dompas system, people were arrested if they didn’t have the pass, but nothing of that sort happens here… people move around freely and we won’t ask them to produce a green card if we see them in the area.”
On Tuesday, Western Cape community safety MEC Dan Plato discussed the system with provincial police commissioner Arno Lamoer.
Plato said Lamoer had assured him that senior police management would investigate the system and compile a report.
Plato said the green card system was not a community safety department initiative and the police had not informed him of it.
“The SA Police Service, an entity which the Western Cape government has no operational control over, needs to answer whether it is a programme initiated by them or why the system has been endorsed by the local sector commander,” he said.
Provincial police spokesman Lt-Col Andre Traut confirmed on Wednesday that an investigation was under way.
Mangena said he was aware of the police investigation and would be monitoring the process to see “how far it goes”.