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Cape Town - A political showdown – which might end up in the Constitutional Court – is looming between Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa and Community Safety MEC Dan Plato over the Western Cape Community Safety Bill, formally put out for public comment this week.
The bill, first announced by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille during her State of the Province address last year, would give the provincial government and community police forums greater oversight over the police. It would also allow the provincial government to determine policing needs and priorities in the Western Cape.
On Tuesday, Mark Wiley, chairman of the province’s community safety standing committee in the legislature, said the bill was formally out for public comment and that public hearings would be held from January 22.
But Mthethwa’s spokesman Zweli Mnisi said the bill fell outside the mandate of the Western Cape executive and that Mthethwa would fight it all the way to the Constitutional Court.
Mthethwa – after getting a legal opinion – said that Chapter 11, section 206 of the constitution stated that a member of the cabinet must be responsible for policing and “must determine national policing policy after consulting the provincial governments and taking into account the policing needs and priorities of the provinces as determined by the provincial executive”.
On Tuesday, Mnisi said that the police ministry would “closely monitor” developments around the bill. “The constitution is clear – SAPS and everything that goes with it is a national competency,” he said. In response, Plato said the bill was “going ahead” and that his office had not received any formal notification that Mthethwa was taking the matter to court.
“The bill is in the hands of the provincial standing committee now. Public hearing dates have been set and we wait for that process to run its course now.”
Wiley said Mthethwa should use the public comment period to make his submissions to the committee.
“As the provincial parliament, we are following the processes,” he said. “We’ve received the bill from the community safety department and have put it out for submissions. We will see where the process goes.”
Three public hearings will be held in George, Beaufort West and Vredendal from January 22, culminating in a final hearing in the provincial legislature on January 29.