Cape Town - The Constitutional Court on Tuesday handed Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille victory against national government's bid to block her commission of inquiry into policing in Khayelitsha, Cape Town.
In a unanimous judgment, the court declined Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa leave to appeal against a high court ruling dismissing his application for an interdict suspending the inquiry pending a review.
The Constitutional Court found that section 206 (5) of the Constitution gives a province the power to establish a commission of inquiry into policing.
Zille set up the inquiry in August last year to investigate alleged police inefficiency in the area. Mthethwa opposed the inquiry in the Western Cape High Court.
His application for interim relief was dismissed in January. Mthethwa then approached the Constitutional Court.
He argued that the inquiry's terms of reference were vague and Zille was not entitled to appoint a commission of inquiry with coercive powers over the SA Police Service.
But in the judgment handed down by Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke, the court held that without coercive powers the commission would be unable to fulfil its mandate. It dismissed the argument that the terms of reference were too vague or broad.
"The Constitutional Court refused to make an order declaring the premier's decision to establish the commission inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid," it said.
"Furthermore the premier was obliged to take reasonable steps to shield the residents of Khayelitsha from an unrelenting invasion of their fundamental rights as a result of the alleged police inefficiency."
Zille welcomed the ruling and said it meant the commission could get to work, "with the full co-operation of the police".
She said the decision to appoint the commission was not taken lightly but prompted by requests from residents, who claimed they had lost trust in the police.
"This request was prompted by the spate of vigilante killings in the area allegedly because people had lost faith in the ability of the police to bring criminals to justice." - Sapa