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Helen Suzman Foundation voices opposition to Bill to guide appointment of Ipid executive director

The foundation wants Cele’s powers to be curtailed. File Picture: Oupa Mokoena / African News Agency (ANA)

The foundation wants Cele’s powers to be curtailed. File Picture: Oupa Mokoena / African News Agency (ANA)

Published Oct 4, 2023

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The Helen Suzman Foundation has submitted to Parliament that the draft Bill to guide the appointment of the executive director for the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) does not safeguard the independence of the institution.

The foundation said with the current Bill, Police Minister, Bheki Cele, would still have a lot of say that could be abused for political ends.

This was contained in a written submission made by the foundation on Tuesday to the parliamentary committee working on the draft Bill.

The foundation also said it would like to make oral submissions to the committee regarding the matter.

Presently, the committee was gathering views from different stakeholders.

The foundation used the opportunity to argue to the committee that the draft bill risked further compromise to Ipid’s independence because it does away with the central role of the parliamentary committee for police (PCP) in appointing the executive director.

Instead, it proposes that the appointment be made by the police minister in concurrence with the cabinet.

“The Ipid ED (executive director) should instead be appointed by the PCP in consultation with the minister, after a panel of suitably qualified persons that the PCP appoints, also in consultation with the minister, recommends a candidate – not only to entrench Ipid’s independence but to give the public confidence that the Ipid ED is appropriately qualified,” the foundation submitted.

Furthermore, in its submission, the foundation said in the Robert McBride case against the minister of police, the Constitutional Court held that this enshrined independence rendered unconstitutional, the minister’s erstwhile power to suspend the Ipid’s executive director without parliamentary oversight.

During that time, McBride challenged his sacking by the minister and won.

It cited another recent case where the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) made it clear that concentrated executive power imperils Ipid’s independence, explaining in the context of renewing the Ipid ED's term of office.

“Indeed, section 4(2) of the Ipid Act, which the Bill leaves unchanged, expressly provides for IPID’s institutional independence from the executive when it requires that it operate “independently from the South African Police Service”, the political head of which is the minister.

“Yet, while the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court of Appeal have taken Parliamentary oversight to define Ipid’s institutional independence from the executive, the Bill has removed it entirely for a crucial moment in Ipid’s institutional life – appointing the Ipid ED.”

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