Sparks fly as Winde and Cele clash over talk of devolving policing powers to provinces

Western Cape Premier Alan Winde says the province’s murder rate validates declaring an intergovernmental dispute with Police Minister Bheki Cele. Picture: Sisonke Mlamla Cape Argus

CELE said that the Western Cape government continues to sabotage the efforts of adequately resourcing legitimate structures. Picture: Sisonke Mlamla Cape Argus

Published Sep 9, 2021


Cape Town - Western Cape Premier Alan Winde and Police Minister Bheki Cele clashed at the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), during a debate on the issue of the devolution of policing powers to the provinces.

Opening the debate, Winde said the time had come for the SAPS to be devolved to capable provinces, such as the Western Cape, because this would ensure that the provincial government had a greater say over what resources were allocated to them, when and how.

“Rather than devolving policing powers to a province that understands its local challenges and can respond, Minister Cele is unilaterally making life more unsafe by cutting our province’s policing budget further.

“Testament to this is that the local SAPS station in Browns Farm has gone without electricity for the past two years, with no support or intervention provided by the out-of-touch national government. Is the national Department of Police even aware of this?

“To add insult to injury, the Western Cape is allocated far fewer police resources and Public Order Policing Service units compared to provinces with equally sized populations. And it is our poorest communities in Mitchells Plain and Khayelitsha who suffer the brunt. We cannot stand for this,” said Winde.

Responding to the debate Cele said: “I don’t work for the kudos, I work for the safety of the people. You can keep the kudos.

“The Constitution says the security services of the republic consist of a single defence force, a single police service and any intelligence service established in terms of the Constitution.

“The equal opportunities President Mandela spoke about include equal opportunities to serve and protect the people of this country, therefore the topic of the devolution of SAPS must be weakened and paralysed.

“As a matter of fact, this government is forging ahead with the full implementation of the ideals of the single policing service, as directed by the Constitution.

“The rogue conduct by certain metros, that create parallel structures of law enforcement aimed at undermining the Constitution, cannot be left unchallenged.

“The Western Cape government continues to sabotage the efforts of adequately resourcing legitimate structures like the metro police, who serve as a force multiplier in the fight against crime.

“Instead, those resources are pumped to fund parallel structures, which add no value,” said Cele.

Supporting Winde at the debate, Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz said the provincial government has set its sights on getting support from other provinces in the country in its campaign, with regard to devolving the police.

Fritz accused the state of having failed to protect its citizens and said the Western Cape was already speaking to senior counsel, academics, and various other stakeholders, to explore the powers of provinces with regard to the decentralising of policing.

“The first thing that needs to happen is an upfront acknowledgement by the ANC, as the national ruling party, and by Minister Cele as the responsible minister for policing, that we need a complete rethink of the nature of policing,” said Fritz.

He argued that the while Section 199 (1) of the Constitution calls for the establishment of a single police service, and Section 206 (1) places the responsibility for national policing policy with a member of the national Cabinet, Section 206 (2) makes provision for different policies in respect of different provinces, after taking into account the provincial needs and priorities of the provinces.

Away from the NCOP, commenting on the province’s campaign, provincial ANC community safety spokesperson Mesuli Kama said: “The call to devolve policing powers is part of the DA's federalism agenda and the quest to re-establish the province as a Cape Colony.

“All other provinces know and understand that SAPS is a national competency and they have a role to play under section 206. So MEC Fritz and Premier Winde are on a wild-goose chase.

“I expect the ANC provinces to push for acceleration of the full implementation of the white paper into policing, so that all policing structures in the country can be amalgamated and work under SAPS command, and for the SAPS to address the skewed allocation of police resources,” said Kama.

Community safety standing committee member Peter Marais (FF Plus) said: “Nothing wakes the DA up to reality more than an election. The pending election seems to be the catalyst that suddenly removed the political blinkers from the DA’s eyes.

“At the State of the Province Address (SOPA) in 2020, I warned Premier Alan Winde that he was powerless to deliver on any promises, because the only exclusive powers provinces have relates to abattoirs and cemeteries. All other constitutional powers and authority are vested in the national government, as concurrent powers.

“The FF Plus also demands exclusive powers for the Western Cape over police, health services, local government, agriculture, culture and land reform.

“It would be interesting to see how many years will have to pass before the DA comes round to supporting these demands.”