Today, 1 August 2016, Western Cape Minister for Community Safety, Dan Plato; City of Cape Town Executive Mayor, Patricia De Lille; and the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith briefed the media on possible legal action to challenge the constitutionality of the White Paper on Policing which recommends the creation of a single police force. Read more below:
The Civilian Secretariat for Police has circulated a White Paper on Policing and requested comments from all spheres of government. Comments and input from both local and provincial government have in large part been ignored. White Papers pave the way for legislation and for this reason we would like to publically place on record our objections to the impact that particular aspects will have on our spheres of government.The White Paper’s support of the NDP’s vision of a modernised, transformed and efficient criminal justice system and a highly skilled police service are welcomed, especially the strengthened commitment towards the demilitarisation of the police and increased discipline and ethical behaviour within the police.
However, any policy put forward has to address the policy gaps which have previously existed in general, and especially as this pertains to the functioning of community-based structures and in particular the community policing forums (CPFs) and neighbourhood watch structures.
The Western Cape Government is of the strong opinion that, apart from the problems identified around the integration of Metro Police into the South African Police Service (SAPS), the White Paper on Policing falls short on:
· the oversight mandate of provincial governments
· specialised policing
· the role of neighbourhood watch organisations
It is essential that detailed reference to the Constitutional role of oversight by provincial governments be included in the White Paper on Policing. Although reference is made on various occasions to the nature and importance of oversight over the police, nowhere is expression given to the provisions of Section 206(3) and 206 (5) of the National Constitution entitling provinces to do oversight over the police.
The Western Cape Government’s comments on the draft White Paper on Policing included that considerable detail is lacking in this regard and that the line stating that provinces should perform oversight ‘in conjunction with the Minister of Police’ should be removed as it is incorrect.
The Constitutional Court in October 2013 unanimously upheld the oversight powers, functions and duties of provincial government in the matter Minister of Police and others versus the Premier of the Western Cape and others. In that judgment, all 11 Constitutional Court judges rejected the argument which was forwarded by the Minister of Police, namely that provincial oversight as is envisaged in the Constitution must be performed through national structures and in particular the National Secretariat of Police. The Constitutional court made it very clear that the National Minister may not curtail the powers of provinces to conduct oversight over policing in that province. Sadly, the draft White Paper is yet another example of how National Government is increasingly ignoring the important principles of our Constitution.
Since 2011, the Western Cape Government has been advocating for the reinstatement of the specialised gang and drug units to effectively deal with the scourge of gangs and drugs in the province. We welcomed President Jacob Zuma’s announcement earlier this year that the specialised gang and drug units will be established as this was a step in the right direction in combating crimes which are wreaking havoc in our communities.
This step has followed the announcement by Police Minister Nathi Nhleko last year already that he is considering the reinstatement of the policing units, only to flip flop later in the year stating that there is no intention to reintroduce any additional specialised units.
Our recommendations into this section of the draft White Paper included that the references in the NDP document that specialised units be reintroduced should be included in the White Paper. We specifically require properly resourced specialised units focusing on addressing gang and drug crimes.
Role of neighbourhood watch organisations
We know that if we want to succeed in the battle against crime there has to be a healthy relationship between communities, police and government institutions.
The White Paper on Policing is silent on the important role that active citizenship can play in creating safer environments through the effective establishment and working of neighbourhood watch organisations
We know that, despite the fact that neighbourhood watch structures have until now not been provided for in any national or provincial law, these structures exist and are driven by the needs of thousands of people who want to contribute to the safety of their communities.
In the Western Cape, the Community Safety Act published in 2013 aims to build neighbourhood watch structures as capable partners within communities. For the first time, neighbourhood watches will be regulated by legislation and given a prominent place in the policing and safety environment. The Western Cape Community Safety Act provides for the voluntary accreditation of neighbourhood watch organisations. After accreditation, the neighbourhood watches may be assisted by the Department of Community Safety in the sense that funding, training or resources may be provided by the Department.
Our comments on the draft White Paper on Policing made it clear that street committees, as mentioned in the draft White Paper, are not to replace the role of neighbourhood watch organisations.
As the Western Cape Government, we remain opposed to a short-sighted policing policy changes which could in practice lead to even worse policing service delivery.
The White Paper seeks to take the Metro Police Service away from the City of Cape Town, and put under the control of the South African Police Service. We believe that this suggested centralised force is a replica of apartheid policing forces. Policing should in fact be more decentralised, and the Metro Police System should be allowed to operate where it is in working order.
Our Constitution specifically provides for a municipal police service in its section 206(7) which states that:
‘National legislation must provide a framework for the establishment, powers, functions and control of municipal police services’.
We shall, as the City of Cape Town, vigorously defend that Constitutional entitlement. Should Minister Nathi Nhleko continue to bulldoze these policy decisions until they become an act of Parliament, we will go to court to challenge their constitutionality.
The White Paper sets out three reasons for the creation of this single police force. The first is that the limited resources in our country don’t allow for ‘the huge duplication of functions’. This is a misnomer because City of Cape Town law enforcement services regularly conduct joint operations with the South African Police Service. We also attend to different areas of delivery because we are in a position to relieve SAPS in areas where they may be overburdened. We can easily deploy our forces to attend to blind spots.
We have placed great emphasis on social crime prevention, where the focus is community-orientated policing and therefore working with local communities to find solutions and empower them to become crime fighters. This ranges from providing more lighting in areas which are dark and therefore prone to muggings to trimming trees to improve visibility. This displays ways in which we have been able to use our mandate holistically to curb crime, to support the efforts of the SAPS.
We have found a way to seamlessly integrate the efforts of our Gang and Drug Task Team with those of Operation Combat. We enjoy good relationships with the Provincial Commissioner in the Western Cape, who has also commended our work and thanked us for our commitment to work together with the SAPS.
Secondly, the current fragmentation of police forces is seen to affect the standard of training. The City of Cape Town law enforcement agencies currently conform with all national norms and standards. If new standards are introduced, then compliance by other metros should be enforced. What the White Paper suggests is to punish those metros who do comply because of those who don’t.
Thirdly cited are the ‘artificial boundaries and barriers between police forces’ which complicate jurisdiction when criminals are on the move. While the White Paper focuses on the movement of criminals, we have over the last 10 years found innovative ways in which to address the safety needs of our residents. These include the following:
1. A Gang and Drug Task Team (GDTT) with over 100 officers focusing on getting drugs and guns off the street in autonomous operations and joint operations with SAPS
2. School Resource Officers (SRO), which sees 36 law enforcement staff protecting schools every day ensuring that learners are safe and have the chance to be all they can be
3. The Stabilisation Unit which comprises 90 officers deployed to gang hotspots to prevent violence and hold gangsters accountable
4. A Special Investigations Unit which is a dedicated unit with 12 investigators gathering information and targeting gang and drug enforcement efforts
5. Neighbourhood Safety Officers (NSOs) – 17 officers deployed in their specific communities where they work every day to build partnerships with the community and to drive policing
6. More than 9 000 neighbourhood watch members following a R5,3 million investment into empowering and equipping community members to take back their streets
7. A Housing Unit with 48 Housing Unit officers who are being appointed to undertake enforcement and protection around the 44 000 rental units of the City to make them safer and improve the quality of life of the City’s tenants
The White Paper recommends that all law enforcement services should be limited to traffic and by-law enforcement which would mean the disbandment of all these units and initiatives.
With local government being at the coalface of delivery, we have prioritised building a safe city and empowered staff to respond directly to the safety concerns of our residents. A single police force only serves to increase bureaucracy and delay the speed at which the metro police can respond to said needs. It will undo the progress that we have made possible thus far.
The single police service will only centralise control, disempower Metro Police to respond to the needs of residents, and disempower both the City of Cape Town and its residents from holding Metro Police accountable.
We cannot and should not allow this ‘one-size-fits all’ crime reduction strategy as what is proposed in the White Paper. Our Metro Police Department is much better positioned to respond to crime at a local community level and their excellent results are evident.
We will be getting ready to mobilise public opinion for the impending public participation process which is the next process in the progress of the White Paper.
In addition to this, we would also seek legal opinions from both the City of Cape Town and Western Cape Government regarding the severe impact on our respective mandates and overall encroachment on the powers and functions of the different spheres of government as set out and safeguarded in the Constitution. If the amended Bill becomes an act of Parliament by the President, we will see no other choice but to challenge its constitutionality.