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Ian Cameron’s path from AfriForum’s head of security to investigating gender violence on the Cape Flats is a South African story of our time.
If he had been born in another country or another SA, he would have been a police officer, Cameron says. It’s in his blood. But, Cameron claims, political interference renders the police service close to dysfunctional and “people work in dire conditions”.
He studied policing science, but his first job was at AfriForum, launching branches and helping sort municipal and environmental problems. Safety was later added to his portfolio and he helped form neighbourhood watches.
“Eight years later, when I left, we had 12,500 volunteers in 157 neighbourhood watches and a permanent team of 24 with a trauma unit.”
Cameron became director of Action Society SA, a civil rights organisation that focuses on crimes against women.
“It became clear to me that we had to get successful prosecutions. We wrote an unorthodox plan. Our approach is to contact the investigating officer at the start of the case. If officers are not doing their jobs, we investigate ourselves and exert pressure to ensure the case will be prosecuted. If that doesn’t happen, we do it.”
They launched this model on the Cape Flats in December and handle 35 cases at any given time.
Cameron sees himself as a civil rights activist, and it is in this capacity that he challenged police minister Bheki Cele at a community meeting in Gugulethu. His frustration with Cele goes back a long way, Cameron says, from when he was commissioner of police.
“Under his watch 47% of arms carrying police officials in the Eastern Cape didn’t have authorisation to do so. How on earth can police officers, who are exposed to real violence, not have the necessary training?
“A few senior ANC members have told me Cele embarrasses them. He also embarrasses the police.”
He challenged Cele at the meeting because he “made derogatory remarks about neighbourhood watches” — saying they have no constitutional mandate — and about metro police and local law enforcement.
“Who is he to talk to them like that? You fail in your own constitutional mandate, but you think it’s OK to be condescending towards people who risk their lives while you walk around surrounded by bodyguards?”
Thanks to his confrontation with Cele and the subsequent social media storm, Action Society SA’s gender violence model is being expedited. Cameron wants to start implementing the blueprint in Gauteng and the northern part of the country by the end of the year.