Cop commission powers questioned

2013-08-06 14:23
(Picture: Nielen de Klerk, News24)

(Picture: Nielen de Klerk, News24)

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Johannesburg - A commission of inquiry into policing in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, does not have the authority to subpoena the police, the Constitutional Court heard on Tuesday.

"Ordinarily the province cannot call the police or provincial commissioner to account," Norman Arendse, SC, for the police, told the court.

If the police were subpoenaed they would have to be at a particular place at a particular time, preventing them from doing their work.

Arendse said the police were not immune to being held accountable for their actions, but this should be done through the Civilian Secretariat Act. It made provision for control and management of the police.

The secretariat was a constitutional structure in existence since 1996 and provided a good example of effective and efficient civilian oversight of the police.

Mthethwa, Zille lock horns

Even if the Khayelitsha inquiry was comprised of independent members there was a "clear link" to the provincial executive, he said.

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille set up the inquiry last August to investigate alleged police inefficiency in the Cape Flats area.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa opposed the inquiry in the Western Cape High Court. His application for interim relief was dismissed in January. Mthethwa then approached the Constitutional Court.

On Tuesday, Arendse argued that Zille was authorised to appoint a commission, but said it was for a specific purpose.

He said Zille did not have the authority to allow the commission to subpoena the police, station commanders, and provincial commissioner.

‘It must make recommendations to the minister’

Justice Bess Nkabinde questioned Arendse on whether the commission could make recommendations.

"Do you accept that this commission was intended to give advice to the national minister [of police]?" Nkabinde asked.

"We accept that... it must make recommendations to the minister," Arendse responded.

He said the minister did not have a problem with the province's appointing a commission to exercise an oversight role and make recommendations to him.

"The problem is the coercive powers that are conferred on the commission of inquiry to achieve this purpose."

The matter continues.
Read more on:    police  |  helen zille  |  nathi mthethwa  |  cape town  |  judiciary

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