‘One police service a disaster’

2013-06-19 00:00

LOCAL policing will come to an end if a proposal for a single police service in South Africa is approved and applied as law, Dr Johan Burger, senior researcher at the Institute of Security Studies (ISS), warned yesterday.

The new green paper on policing recommends that current legislation be adapted to make provision for a single police service.

The ANC passed a resolution in 2007 at Polokwane to incorporate metro police units into the national police, to create a single police service, but this resolution has not yet been implemented.

Burger said it was very clear that the ANC felt “uncomfortable and threatened” by the idea that provinces and municipalities over which it has no control can legally have armed forces.

These provinces and municipalities are in the ANC’s sights, Burger said.

“If we have one police service, there will be chaos. We will burden the police with too many responsibilities and local policing will suffer.”

He explained that local priorities will always take a back seat to national priorities.

The green paper states that a single police service is in line with the Constitution, but Burger said the green paper conveniently ignores article 206 of the Constitution, which makes provision for metro police services.

“From the side of the ISS, we are very unhappy about this because we have repeatedly pointed it out in writing [to the police’s civil secretariat]. We will be taking up this issue. They cannot ignore the Constitution, which is what they are doing.”

Dianne Kohler Barnard, DA spokesperson on the police, said the DA is against a single police service and will oppose the recommendation.

“They are now using the same argument as was used when they disbanded the Scorpions, but the Constitution allows room for separate police services.”

Annelizé van Wyk, acting chair of the parliamentary portfolio committee on police, said the Constitution determined South Africa must have a single police service.

“The fact of the matter is that the Constitution is very clear on this.”

She said the ANC had always been openly and very much in favour of a single police service.

“It is a national competence and the responsibility of the national government to ensure that there is policing.”

Van Wyk said it is short-sighted and opportunistic to claim the drive for a single police service was a politically-driven decision.

She said the current management of the police is causing a lot of disparity in policing.

“Rich people in wealthy cities get good policing and others not.

“One sees this, for example, in Cape Town, where the police mainly work in the south instead of seeing what is happening in Khayelitsha and Mitchell’s Plain.”

Professor Marinus Wiechers, an expert on the Constitution, said the Constitution clearly provides for municipal police.

He read Article 206, sub-article seven: “National legislation must provide a framework for the establishment, powers, functions and control of municipal police services.”

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