Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa has tabled two Bills in Parliament that will see better oversight of the South African Police Service (SAPS). But a parliamentary researcher says the two draft laws do not go far enough to restore accountability.
Mthethwa tabled the Civilian Secretariat for Police Bill and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate Bill at a meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Police on Tuesday. The Independent Police Investigative Directorate Bill will establish an Independent Police Investigative Directorate in place of the existing but under-resourced Independent Complaints Directorate “to investigate any alleged misconduct or offence committed by a member of the Police Service.
The Bill seeks to provide the Directorate with the necessary powers and functions to exercise its constitutional mandate and repeal the provisions relating to the Independent Complaints Directorate in the South African Police Service Act, 1995. The existing directorate can investigate deaths at the hands of the police or in police custody, or alleged misconduct or offences by police. The new Independent Police Investigative Directorate can also probe rape, torture and corruption, Business Day reported.
“The two pieces of legislation we are tabling today seek to achieve and support our philosophy of an improved, smart, monitored policing as well as a comprehensive oversight of police,” Mthethwa told the committee. “This must be reflective of the cadre of cop we want to create and see.
“As we indicated before (during this year’s Budget Vote), we shall be taking no chances with the lives of police but equally not allow any police abuses on citizens. To address the historical weaknesses that have plagued the ICD, we are now moving towards a new orientation, which is, a legislative, monitoring and well-oiled machinery of police,” Mthethwa said.
“If police powers are unchecked they can undoubtedly be abused and thus our country can easily slide into a police state, which is not the kind of policing approach we desire. The essence of the philosophy we are talking about also speaks to capacitating of communities so that they form part and parcel of policing in general. That is why as part of these proposed legislations, the location of Community Policing Forums will be located under [the] Secretariat of Police,” added the minister.
Also present at the briefing was the Secretary of Police, Jenni Irish-Qhobosheane who stated that the current situation that exists “is more reflective of the pre-1994 period” where policing in South Africa was characterised by weak accountability, lack of civilian and ministerial input into policing policy. “This situation has resulted in a number of problems. Some of these problems include a blurring in the lines of command and control within the department and confusion over the difference between policy and operational issues.”
But a parliamentary researcher yesterday warned the committee that the new Bill will retain the status quo. “There is no obligation to implement the recommendations so this bill does not strengthen the current position of the directorate,” Mpumelelo Mpisi cautioned. Mpisi also questioned the fact that provision the new directorate still reports to Mthethwa, saying it should instead report directly to Parliament to minimise political interference and promote independence. “(It) is an independent agency and must function like other independent agencies such as the public protector and the Public Service Commission.”