Calls to give Western Cape government direct control over SAPS grow ever louder

SAPS members on parade. l NQOBILE MBONAMBI/African News Agency (ANA)

SAPS members on parade. l NQOBILE MBONAMBI/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Jun 10, 2023


Cape Forum, a civil society organisation affiliated with AfriForum, has recently approached the Constitutional Court in a bid to restructure policing powers to give direct control of policing to the Western Cape rather than the national government.

Heindrich Wyngaard, executive chairperson of Cape Forum, said the application to the Constitutional Court was based on Section 127(2)(f) of the Constitution, which gives a premier the power and responsibility to be able to hold referendums in the province in accordance with national legislation.

"Cape Forum has already called on the Premier of the Western Cape to hold a referendum through which the residents of the Western Cape’s support can be tested for the devolution of policing powers to the province," said Wyngaard.

The forum argues that violent crime in the Western Cape has increased over the years to such an extent that current policing models are no longer effective in keeping residents of the province safe.

"The allocation of police resources from the national level to the province, such as the number of members deployed at police stations, also plays a role. Together with this, it is problematic for Cape Forum that appointments in senior positions are made with candidates who are less qualified than local candidates or who do not speak the majority language of the province.

“We believe, as an organisation that advocates for the devolution of state powers to effective provinces, that residents should have a say in the management of services that affect their daily lives," said Wyngaard.

Last week the Christopher Fry, the DA’s Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Premier and Constitutional Matters, tabled a provincial powers Bill in the provincial legislature which seeks to devolve certain powers in areas such as policing, public transport, energy, and harbours

Western Cape Minister of Police Oversight and Community Safety, Reagan Allen, said part of the reason why the Western Cape Government launched the Western Cape Safety Plan (WCSP) is due to SAPS’ inability to make a dent in the fight against crime.

He said the introduction of Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP) officers, which stems from the WCSP, has over time shown its impact in combating crime.

"We have and continue to advocate and lobby for the devolution of policing powers to capable provincial governments, such as the Western Cape Government. We recognise that not all provincial governments might be capable of managing their own police services.

“The current policing model has failed to combat and address crime effectively. We cannot allow the current system to continue, where decisions are made outside of the provinces without an understanding of the realities.

“As the Western Cape Government, we will, among others, ensure that once SAPS is devolved to us, they are fully professionalised, capacitated, trained, and placed in a position where they are able to be effective in their mandate," said Allen.

He said SAPS was expected to work under extremely difficult conditions. There were committed men and women in blue who were being failed by their national management and the national government.

The national structures had no appetite to capacitate and empower the officers in the province, which made their jobs very difficult.

Lirandzu Themba. Police Ministry spokesperson, said they were unable to comment as Police Minister Bheki Cele ws out of the country.