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Police committee considering to amend law

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The portfolio committee on police is considering amending the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) Act to task the police watchdog with also keeping an eye on metropolitan law enforcement agencies.

This was one of the few concrete outcomes of a heated meeting on Friday where the City of Cape Town, police, IPID, and the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) were called to discuss the incident involving Cape Town law enforcement members in Khayelitsha where Bulelani Qolani was forcefully removed from his shack naked.

However, a longstanding power struggle between the DA-run city and national ANC-government on policing, played out in the committee.

FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald remarked that the meeting had “quite a lot of political undertones”, with the DA on one side and the ANC on the other.

There were several topics where information provided by the City and police contradicted each other.

Among them was whether there was oversight over city law enforcement. According to Police Minister Bheki Cele, the problems with policing in the Western Cape didn’t come from the metro police, but from city law enforcement officials.

“The problem is no oversight,” he claimed.

While the metro police were accountable to IPID, law enforcement officials were not.

DA MP Andrew Whitfield however said Cele “repeated a number of falsehoods”.

“There is a civilian oversight committee that oversees law enforcement in Cape Town,” Whitfield said.

Committee chairperson Tina Joemat-Pettersson, who had to hold on tightly to the reins during the meeting, said: “As a committee, we will correct what is wrong. The amendment of the IPID Act is a priority for this committee.”

She suggested that the City integrated its law enforcement units with the metro police while the legislation was amended.

The committee resolved in July to amend the IPID Act to strengthen Parliament’s hand in the appointment of IPID’s executive director versus that of the police minister.

This, after a contentious appointment process of Jennifer Ntlatseng as IPID’s executive director, in which Cele was in breach of the law for months. Ntlatseng made her first appearance before the committee on Friday.

The City had to be summoned to the meeting after it declined an earlier invitation from Joemat-Pettersson.

Concluding his presentation, Cape Town mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said the City was aware that it had been summoned to appear before no less than four portfolio committees in the past three months at least six times and that no ANC controlled municipality had been treated in this manner, even though the matters which the City was being interrogated on, applied equally to them.

ANC MPs Kebby Maphatsoe and Princess Faku, and Joemat-Pettersson took exception to this.

Joemat-Pettersson said the City was not singled out – the committee had done oversight visits in the province, and it received complaints from the community, they charged.

It would also call other municipalities. SAHRC commissioner Chris Nissen also took exception to Smith’s criticism of the commission’s perceived impartiality.

He, too, said it was not true that they were singling out the City of Cape Town.

“All over the country, we are treating everyone the same.”

Referencing the Qolani incident, Smith informed the committee that they often experienced people undressing when law enforcement took action against them.

They have learnt how to better deal with it and took blankets to operations to cover them, so that their dignity was not impugned when they undressed themselves.

Policing in the Western Cape had been a bone of contention since the DA came to power in the province in 2009.

In the run-up to last year’s election, the DA campaigned for the devolution of policing powers, while Cele and the ANC had long advocated for a single police force, which would entail metro police agencies being dissolved into the national police force.

-The Citizen

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