NHW concerns raised over amendment bill

The minister of community safety, Albert Fritz, briefs the media on the police amendment bill on 2 November.
The minister of community safety, Albert Fritz, briefs the media on the police amendment bill on 2 November.

The department of community safety, commenting on the South African Police Service Amendment Bill, has noted “concerning provisions” on the registration of neighbourhood watches (NHW).

Addressing the media on Monday 2 November, the provincial minister of community safety, Albert Fritz, highlighted the comments submitted by the department on the amendment bill as well as its concerns, particularly as they relate to NHWs.

According to one of the clauses – Clause 81 Section 6A (9) – proposed in the amendment bill, it will be expected of NHWs to be registered with community policing forums (CPFs) in future.

Fritz is of the opinion that this is unreasonable. “CPFs’ objectives differ from that of NHWs. Their main objective is oversight over the police as set out in section 18 of the bill and NHWs are not police officials nor do they have any policing function. Their role is to act as the eyes and ears of the community through patrols,” he said.

To date, there are approximately 307 NHW structures accredited with the department. The NHWs have benefitted from training, funding and increased accountability.

Fritz said it was also unclear what was meant by “registration”. He added that the Western Cape Community Safety Act (WCCSA) made provision for the accreditation of NHWs with the department. “A conflict of interest may arise from the NHW accrediting themselves with the department and registering with the CPF. It is suggested that clear criteria be set for registration.”

The bill further proposes a system that members of a community may establish a voluntary neighbourhood patrolling or NHW association. However, Fritz stated that the WCCSA already made provision for the voluntary accreditation of NHWs.

Fritz reasoned that the complete section 6A should not be applicable to the Western Cape. He further called for closer alignment between the bill and the WCCSA on the establishment, code of conduct and accreditation of NHWs.

“In fact, a code of conduct has been issued by the Department of Community Safety to govern the operations of accredited NHWs. The provisions in the WCCSA are much more comprehensive than that contained in the proposed section 6A of the bill, which again supports the idea that the bill should build on current provisions of the WCCSA.”

Going forward, the submission on the bill will be reviewed by provincial legal services who will collate all inputs from all departments and will submit a final document for Fritz’s signature to be sent to the minister of police.

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