Cape Town – President Cyril Ramaphosa has shot down the DA’s calls for the devolution of national police powers to the provincial government.
DA leader John Steenhuisen had on August 26 written to Ramaphosa, asking him what the Western Cape government would need to do to be granted more police powers to ensure a safer province, and what the government’s policy position was on the devolution of powers.
Steenhuisen’s question came against a backdrop of Provincial and and City of Cape Town leaders calling for a devolved service to allow improved policing in crime hotspots.
Police Minister Bheki Cele previously told Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis that the call to separate provincial and national policing was like “crying at the wrong funeral”.
In response to Steenhuisen, and citing section 199(1) of the Constitution, Ramaphosa said this precept provides that the security services consist of a single police service and that in terms of section 205(1) of the Constitution, the national police must be structured to function in the national and provincial governments and, where appropriate, in municipalities.
“The national commissioner is, in terms of section 207 of the Constitution, responsible to control and manage the police service in accordance with the national policing policy and directions of the minister of police,” Ramaphosa said.
He added that section 207(4) also makes provision for the provincial commissioner to be responsible for policing their province.
“The minister of police does not have policing powers and therefore cannot assign or transfer the responsibility of the national commissioner to control and manage the single national police service to a member of the provincial executive council or to a municipal council,” Ramaphosa said.
“Such transfer will be inconsistent with the provisions as contained in Chapter 11 of the Constitution, and accordingly, invalid.”
He said the DA’s proposal would require amendment to the relevant provisions of Chapter 11.
On the government’s stance on the devolution of police powers, the president said: “The government does not have a policy on devolving policing powers to provinces as the SAPS is a national competency.
“However, there is an Integrated Model of Policing Policy to operationalise the policy direction, outlined in the National Development Plan and the 2016 White Paper on Policing for a professional and accountable police service, that is underpinned by prudent and efficient use of resources and the use of smart, modern policing approaches.”
Ramaphosa said an integrated police service would act as a collective for policing, strengthen governance and accountability across government spheres, and lead to “optimal co-ordination and alignment” across the three spheres of government.
In contrast to a devolved police service, Ramaphosa said an integrated approach would “enhance visibility and efficiency, ensure the most efficient use of resources, and strengthen outcomes around building safe and resilient communities”.
Moreover, he said an integrated approach would better address “inconsistencies” related to “the fragmented nature” of policing at both national and local levels, and the lack of lockstep implementation of national policing standards across the board, and lay the basis for standardised “policing approaches in order to ensure efficiency and value for money”.
Western Cape MEC of Police Oversight and Community Safety Reagen Allen described Ramaphosa’s views as “unfortunate, and quite frankly concerning that the president holds this view”.
“It tells us that he is not interested in the safety of the residents of this province. Perhaps it should not be surprising,” Allen said.
He said policing had clearly failed under the national government and the status quo could not remain.
“With decisions being taken at a national level, it will continue to struggle to address the safety needs of our people. Nothing the national-led government has done, has worked.
“It took the Western Cape government to initiate and implement the Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (Leap) officers, in partnership with the City, to start seeing a reduction in the murder rate at precincts where Leap is deployed.”
He said Leap had overseen an 8.2% reduction in the murder rate in this year’s first quarter at SAPS stations where Leap officers were deployed.
“This is a clear demonstration why the SAPS should be devolved.”