‘Constitution provides for single service’: Bheki Cele pours cold water on police devolution

Police Minister Bheki Cele said the Constitution provided that there should be a single police service. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Police Minister Bheki Cele said the Constitution provided that there should be a single police service. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 28, 2023


As the DA federal council on Tuesday endorsed the Western Cape Provincial Powers Bill, Police Minister Bheki Cele poured cold water on conducting a feasibility study to devolve policing function to provincial governments.

Cele made his stance known while responding to DA MP Andrew Whitfield, when he enquired whether he would devolve the policing function.

Whitfield’s question came against the backdrop of the DA’s push for certain powers that reside with the national government, such as policing and railway functions, be devolved to provinces and metros.

The debate on the devolution of police function has been ongoing. Cele and President Cyril Ramaphosa have repeatedly said the police service was was the national government’s competency.

Unfazed by their responses, Whitfield wrote to Cele asking if he would do a feasibility study, considering that Gauteng and the Western Cape had taken steps to provide policing services in their areas of jurisdiction.

The Western Cape, via the City of Cape Town, and Gauteng, have introduced peace officers through their Law Enforcement Advancement Plan and Crime Prevention Warden projects in 2019 and 2023 respectively.

In his written response, Cele said the Constitution provided that there should be a single police service.

“In terms of the section 205(1) of the constitution, the national police service must be structured to function in the national, provincial, and where appropriate, local spheres of government,” he said,” Cele said.

He also said the national commissioners were responsible for controlling and managing SAPS in accordance with the national policing policy and directions of the minister.

Meanwhile, the DA federal council unanimously adopted the resolution proposed by party leader John Steenhuisen to endorse the Western Cape Provincial Powers Bill tabled in the DA-run province last month.

The draft bill seeks to promote the exercise of provincial powers by the Western Cape, by establishing a 10-member Provincial Powers Committee to report to the legislature on the assertion and assumption of provincial powers.

Federal chairperson Helen Zille said the bill encapsulated the DA’s approach to federal autonomy for provinces and metros that have the “capacity to manage devolved functions from central government”.

“The DA will be pursuing this objective in all provinces where the DA will be in government following the 2024 election,” Zille said.

The bill’s preamble read that the national government was unable or unwilling to deliver services to the people of the Western Cape.

It also read that the provincial and local authorities in the Western Cape had a constitutional obligation to assert their existing provincial and local powers as we seek all additional powers.

According to the bill, once passed, it will identify and remedy the failures of the national government.

“It is in the interests of the residents of the Western Cape for the Western Cape government and municipal authorities within its borders to seek to exercise the maximum possible degree of autonomy and control over their own affairs within the existing constitutional scheme.”

ANC leader in the legislature, Cameron Dugmore, said the bill would never pass the constitutional muster, as it was an attempt by the DA to appease their right-wing allies.

“As the ANC caucus we will fight it all the way to the ConCourt. They have powers already regarding basic education and health and are failing,” he said.

“Health facilities in rural and working-class areas have been neglected by the DA.

“They have the power to appoint an Environmental Commissioner for the Western Cape but have refused to do so for 14 years,” Dugmore said.

He said the ANC believed in a united South Africa, not a republic of the Western Cape.

“The DA should focus on fixing the disparities in health and education, not seek more powers,” he added.

ACDP MPL Ferlon Christians said his party believed that more powers should be devolved to the lowest level of government.

Christians said when it came to policing, the provinces had an oversight role rather than operational function.

“We are in favour of devolution of powers so that they can serve the communities properly.

“When it (the bill) is introduced, the ACDP will be in support,” he said, adding that devolution should be made when provinces and metros have the capacity to perform the functions.

Cape Times