Police committee flexes its muscles

2013-03-12 21:47
(Nielen de Klerk, News24)

(Nielen de Klerk, News24)

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Cape Town - There will be no more leniency when police ask for its meetings with MPs to be rescheduled, Parliament heard on Tuesday.

Portfolio committee acting chairperson Annelize van Wyk demanded an explanation on why a SA Police Service team failed to attend last week a briefing on its implementation plan for the dangerous weapons bill.

The team was meant to brief the committee on 19 February, but requested an extension.

The committee rescheduled the briefing until 26 February, but that meeting was also postponed after an Saps request.

Last week, the team failed to arrive.

"We could continue with the bill because the department's legal team, the secretariat and the state law advisers were here, but we couldn't deal with the implementation plan because they didn't pitch - with no apology, no explanation, no phone call, nothing," said Van Wyk.

The committee wrote a letter to the police minister, telling him the committee's work was being held up and the bill would not be passed without a coherent implementation plan.

"We still didn't get any action from them, and on Friday I was forced to write a letter to the national commissioner to say I want the divisional commissioner responsible for this to be at this meeting to explain why they ignored Parliament."

Divisional Commissioner for Visible Policing, Lesetja Mothiba, on Tuesday told MPs it was a case of miscommunication.

But Van Wyk did not accept the explanation, insisting that undermining Parliament had become too much of a habit, forcing the committee to play a "nanny" role.

"You don't want to treat a department in this way. But if a department disregards Parliament, they have to realise there will be consequences. We will now not be flexible around these issues any more."

She said the department needed to learn manners.

Asked whether the criticism was unfair, Mothiba said the SAPS top brass were used to it.

"I can assure you that it is not the truth that we just deliberately undermine Parliament. That must really be dismissed with the contempt it deserves."

He said national police commissioner Riah Phiyega was "dissatisfied" with the state of affairs.

"Already I know the national commissioner has issued some harsh words in terms of this," said Mothiba.

Bill tweaked

Despite the showdown, the committee gave the dangerous weapons bill the green light.

It will be debated in the National Assembly next week.

The bill was tweaked slightly after it first came to the committee for consideration last month.

Sporting bodies and collectors complained they would be arrested while travelling to and from events, and could be prosecuted for having paintguns, airguns or antique rifles, guns, and swords in their possession.

As the bill now stands, the act will not apply to the:

- possession of dangerous weapons in pursuit of any lawful employment, duty or activity;

- possession of dangerous weapons during participation in any religious or cultural activities, or lawful sport, recreation, or entertainment; and;

- legitimate collection, display or exhibition of weapons.

Police officers will be given the discretion to decide whether there is a reasonable suspicion a weapon could be used for unlawful purposes.

It was hoped the proposed law would bolster the Regulation of Gatherings Act.

Police would be able to crack down on protesters brandishing firearms, bricks, glass bottles, spears, or any object which could be used to harm someone or damage property.

Read more on:    police  |  riah phiyega  |  parliament 2013  |  politics

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