Minister Fritz concerned about neighbourhood watch amendments in SAPS Bill
Minister Fritz concerned about neighbourhood watch amendments in SAPS Amendment Bill
The Department of Community Safety, has under the leadership of Minister Albert Fritz, submitted its comments on the South African Police Service (SAPS) Amendment Bill (the Bill), noting concerning provisions on the registration of Neighbourhood Watches (NHW).
Going forward, the submission will be reviewed by provincial legal services who will collate all inputs from all departments and will submit a final document for Minister Fritz’s signature to be sent to the Secretary for Police.
With reference to Clause 81 Section 6A (9), Minister Fritz said, “it cannot be expected of NHWs to be registered with Community Police Forums (CPFs). CPFs’ objectives differ from that of NHWs. Their main objective is oversight over the police as set out in section 18 of the Bill and NHWs are not police officials nor do they have any policing function. Their role is to act as the eyes and ears of the community through patrols.”
To date, there are approximately 307 NHW structures which are accredited with the Department of Community Safety in terms of the Western Cape Community Safety Act, 2013 (Act 3 of 2013) (WCCSA). Since the enactment of the WCCSA, NHWs have benefitted from training, funding and increased accountability.
Minister Fritz said, “It is also unclear what is meant by the word “registration” and the WCCSA already ample provision for the accreditation of NHWs with the Department of Community Safety. A conflict of interest may arise from the NHW accrediting themselves with the Department and registering with the CPF. It is therefore suggested that clear criteria be set for registration.”
Clause 81 Section 6A of Bill further proposes a system that members of a community may establish a voluntary neighbourhood patrolling or NHW association. However, the WCCSA already makes provision for the voluntary accreditation of NHWs.
Minister Fritz said, “While other provinces may also require legislation that governs NHWs, the Western Cape already has sufficient legislation in this regard as the establishment and accreditation of NHWs is guided by the WCCSA. At present, the Bill threatens to undermine the significant progress made by the WCCSA. The Bill should acknowledge that some provinces may have the ability or are currently putting these measures in place.”
Minister Fritz added, “For this reason, the complete section 6A should not be applicable to the Western Cape. I further call for closer alignment between the Bill and the WCCSA on the establishment, code of conduct and accreditation of NHWs.”
Minister Fritz continued, “In fact, a Code of Conduct has been issued by the Department of Community Safety to govern the operations of accredited NHWs. The provisions in the WCCSA are much more comprehensive than that contained in the proposed section 6A of the Bill, which again supports the idea that the Bill should build on current provisions of the WCCSA. Furthermore, there is no link to farm watches and how they might be linked to a functional SAPS Reservist system. In such case, SAPS reservists could combine with farm watches to ensure that farm watches have peace officers which guide them in their response.”
Other concerning provisions
1. Single Policing Service
Clause 6 Section 5 “Single police force” does not preclude the possibility of a provincial police service. A trend among democracies internationally is to provide for a decentralized police service which is more responsive to the needs of the province or region.
Minister Fritz said, “More discretion in the development of a provincial police service or policy should be provided for in this Bill. The Constitution does not preclude the possibility of a provincial police service. South Africa is a large territory with diverse needs in each of its Provinces. A single police service, and a single national policing policy or policing plan is not the best way to address these complex needs.”
Minister Fritz added, “Clause 57 Section 64 proposes to integrate Law Enforcement Officers into a municipal police service. This is very concerning because it would have major cost implications in terms of the Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP) and would mean that smaller municipalities, who have law enforcement capabilities but cannot afford municipal police services, would no longer be able to have their own law enforcement capabilities.”
Minister Fritz continued, “This provision threatens to undermine the tremendous efforts of the Western Cape Government and the City of Cape Town through the Western Cape Safety Plan, which has deployed an additional 500 law enforcement officers to the most crime afflicted communities. A single police service would mean further centralization of policing in the province and take service delivery away from those who need it most, where and when they need it.”
2. Railway safety
Clause 11(b) Section 12 (1A)(d)(i) to (iii) fails to acknowledge that it is the primary responsibility of the SAPS to safeguard commuters on the railway system and at train stations. This legal mandate is derived from legislation on the integration of the Railway Police into the SAPS in 1986. “It is suggested that the following sub-section be added: (iv) the delivery of a visible policing function to safeguard rail commuters on rolling stock and at train stations,” said Minister Fritz
3. Public Order Policing
The Western Cape has the second lowest number of units across the country, and the fifth lowest number of POP officers. In addition, the number of POP officers in the province is only 9.8% of the total number across the country (539 out of a total of 5,484).
Minister Fritz said, “I am concerned that the decision to deploy POP will be centralized to the office of the national commissioner, and that the provincial commissioner will merely be able to indicate where there is a need for deployment, giving the province less say over when and how to deploy resources. There is further a clear need to increase the resources allocated to the Western Cape which may not be addressed by centralizing the deployment of POP through a national POP capacity. This is demonstrated as the decision to deploy this capacity would lie with the National Commissioner.”
Minister Fritz added, “Unrelatedly, I am pleased that the recommendations made previously on the Draft Bill (in 2018 and 2019) by the Department of Community Safety have been incorporated into the latest version of the Draft Bill. However, there are many areas where the Department has consistently made recommendations on the proposed legislation and that still are retained in the latest version.”
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