DA leader Mmusi Maimane lambasted SAPS KwaZulu-Natal acting commissioner Lt-Gen Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi. Picture: @Our_DA/Twitter

Durban - The Democratic Alliance kicked off its 2019 national elections campaign in KwaZulu-Natal outside the South African Police Service (SAPS) provincial head office on Saturday, where it lambasted the province’s top cop for “banning” opposition party MPs and MPLs from oversight visits.

Speaking outside Servamus House near the city centre to hundreds of supporters clad in party T-shirts, DA leader Mmusi Maimane lambasted SAPS KwaZulu-Natal acting commissioner Lt-Gen Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi for being “legally, morally, and constitutionally wrong” for the ban.  

Mkhwanazi issued a circular to policing cluster commanders in which he said political parties, “irrespective which party it is”, who visited police stations to inquire about police business that included “operations, crime, resources, finances, etc” should not be given the information.

Mkhwanazi said political parties were accessing stations and using them to “conduct political party agendas”. Citing the DA, Mkhwanazi said the party had visited and carried out interviews at clusters and stations without the prior knowledge of SAPS management.  

"The police can divulge information to official government institutions, such as the portfolio committee on policing from national parliament or provincial legislature, the department of planning, monitoring, and evaluation, civilian secretariat for police, etc. However, the cluster and station commander would have received notification of such visit from provincial head office and what is expected from the police’s side,” said Mkhwanazi in the circular.

Maimane hit back on Saturday, saying he would not accept the decision because it was the “sworn duty” of members of parliament and provincial legislatures to perform SAPS oversight.

“That is our constitutional duty and it is very clearly set out in a parliamentary document called the oversight and accountability model. But here in KZN we are being prevented from doing our work,” said Maimane.

“There were occasions where [Mkhwanazi] sent SMSes to station commanders when he knew MPs or MPLs were on their way there, telling them not to co-operate in the oversight visit. Fearing for their jobs, these commanders have no choice but to obey him,” said Maimane.

“We even heard of a police officer who is now facing disciplinary action for co-operating with MPs during an oversight visit. This is simply unacceptable. Any SAPS member who finds him or herself victimised or intimidated for allowing public representatives to perform their constitutional duty can count on the support of the DA,” he said.

Maimane said the oversight visits could either be pre-announced or unannounced. “And I assure you, we will continue to perform our duty, whether general Mkhwanazi likes it or not,” he said.

The DA wrote to KwaZulu-Natal transport, community safety, and liaison MEC Mxolisi Kaunda on Wednesday asking him to publicly condemn and retract the “unconstitutional directive” within 48 hours.

African News Agency/ANA