Cape Town - The City of Cape Town has taken its fight for more policing powers to Capetonians.
Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis announced on Tuesday that the City had drawn up a petition calling on the public to support its request for Police Minister Bheki Cele to hand over control of the police to the City. He said the petition had so far garnered 2 500 signatures.
Hill-Lewis’ announcement comes less than two weeks after he formally sent a letter to Cele requesting that control of the police be devolved down to local government level.
The request was met with nonchalance by Cele, who said the City was “crying at the wrong funeral” and should instead approach the Ministry of Justice for assistance.
The Ministry of Justice, however, said that it was not in a position to assist the City with its request, citing the Constitution’s provision for a single police service.
Ministry of Justice spokesperson Chrispin Phiri said: “The Constitution specifically singles out how policing should unfold in a constitutional democracy. It is disingenuous to interpret a specific provision along with a general provision.
“This is in reference to the argument that the Constitution in Section 99 allows for the devolution of policing functions.”
This follows remarks made by Hill-Lewis that he would not let the issue rest as the City’s request was justified under Section 99 of the Constitution.
He said: “Cele has previously said that he cannot devolve power in the absence of a constitutional amendment. However, Section 99 provides that a Cabinet member may assign any power or function to a municipal council.
“We are doing everything within our power, limited resources and ability to make Cape Town safer for all. Just this financial year, we allocated a whopping R5.4 billion safety budget, employed 230 additional officers, and made significant investments into crime-fighting technology – all for the betterment of our city.
“We have taken the decision that we will not be held hostage by the failings of our national police minister. A fully fledged police service would allow us to do more, to investigate crime and ensure criminals are put behind bars,” Hill-Lewis said.
While opposition political parties have questioned the motive behind the City’s request, former Western Cape police commissioner Lennit Max said he understood the move, and that considering the efforts and strides made by local government, it should be given the chance to create a more appropriate security response to crime in the Metro.
“The SAPS is under-resourced and overwhelmed with its own function. In terms of the Constitution, the minister of police can devolve or delegate certain policing powers to local government.
“Advising for amendments to be made to the Constitution is questionable because that process is quite tedious.
“As far as crime prevention is concerned, as a former SAPS general I am quite impressed with what measures the City has put in place to counter crime. Delegating infrastructure and appropriate resources to proactively prevent crime, and the City assisting the SAPS with resources and loan equipment, would better enable the SAPS to respond to crime.
“The City has the metro police, a function I helped put in place when I was provincial commissioner; it has a good Traffic Department and the Leap project, which has been effective in the areas these officers are deployed.
“The City is making good points in terms of visibility, and assisting communities in need. So for me, it is common cause that it be given more power because it already has the capacity, investigators, detectives, you name it. The City is recruiting some of the best officers to come out of the SAPS and successfully using them to complement its efforts.