Bheki Cele welcomes overdue police accountability, disciplinary bill
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Durban - Police Minister Bheki Cele says the SAPS Amendment Bill of 2020 makes provision for accountability and discipline within the police service to ensure that South Africans get better service.
Cele welcomed Cabinet’s decision to approve the long-overdue amendment bill which seeks to align the current South African Police Service Act of 1995 with the Constitution.
“While all officers are guided by Section 205 of the Constitution, there was a need to bring this bill in line with the Constitution to ensure optimal policing within the current environment.”
These amendments made room for accountability and discipline within the police service, Cele said.
“I believe they will go a long way in ensuring that the SAPS better serves the people of this country while at the same time, boosting the trust between communities and the men and women in blue.”
The minister said the bill provided a way to improve relationships between the police service and the community.
The Act will also empower the minister to make regulations for the roles, functions, duties and obligations, requirements for appointment and disciplinary matters of deputy national and divisional commissioners.
Vetting and integrity testing of SAPS employees through lifestyle audits and conflict of interest assessments were some of the issues that had been identified.
Cele said that police recruits would also be expected to submit a sample for DNA testing.
The enhancement of community policing and oversight of the community policing forums was also proposed.
Cele said the bill proposed to address operational concerns raised in the non-notification of intended gatherings under the Regulations of Gatherings Act, and would also give effect to the Farlam Commission’s recommendations.
The commission investigated the Marikana mine massacre, where many miners were killed in 2012.
The minister said previous judgments found certain sections of the Act on protests and other demonstrations, unconstitutional.
“No automatic rifles may be used in crowd control, and lethal force may not be used for protection of property only, however whenever life and property is endangered simultaneously, use of lethal force will be warranted,” he said.
Professor Theodore Petrus, from the Department of Anthropology at the University of the Free State, agreed with the minister that the amendment bill was long overdue and questioned the timing.
He said it may be coincidental that the bill had come while the country watched as three police officers were on trial for the murder of 16-year-old Nathanial Julies.
“We have had a number of incidents happening over the last few years where we’ve seen the consequences of unrestrained police action,” said Petrus.
Petrus said the same issues that had been dogging the SAPS prior to 1994 were still there.
“The most important issue has to do with mistrust between local communities and the police,” Petrus said.
He said that incidents like Marikana, the death of Andries Tatane - killed during a protest - and the death of Julies among others further displaced the communities’ confidence and trust in the police.
It remained to be seen just how well this amendment was going to be applied in practice he said.
“My concern is that even after 1994, with the big transformation in the police service with the SAPS Act, we see a police service that has continuously and consistently been marred by corruption, mismanagement, abuse of power, not protecting the public,” he said.
“In fact, demonstrating disdain for the public,” said Petrus.