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Bheki Cele’s plan to remove Law Enforcement’s powers

On Friday, 1st of December, officers patrolling the tented camp on Lower Church Street along the N1 highway, noticed a suspicious male trying to avoid their presence. After pursuing him, they apprehended him and found Mandrax in his possession. A further search uncovered a firearm with three rounds of ammunition. The City’s enforcement units perform numerous arrests each and every day and have already taken hundreds of illegal firearms off our streets.

It seems not everyone applauds these efforts, as seen in the draft copy of the latest National Policing Policy, under the instruction of Minister Bheki Cele. The City of Cape Town is deeply disturbed by the latest attempt to derail the good work that the Metropolitan Police Department and our other enforcement agencies are doing.

The Municipal Policing Service has been under threat for several years now – first, the White Paper on Policing in 2016, proposed that the service be put under the control of the South African Police Service. These efforts were thwarted, as the Constitution specifically provides for a municipal police service in its section 206(7), which states that ‘National legislation must provide a framework for the establishment, powers, functions, and control of municipal police services’.

The latest proposal by the national government is to limit the City enforcement services’ powers to by-law and traffic enforcement only, which means they will no longer play a part in crime prevention, as conveyed in an entire section of the national draft policy devoted to this subject: ‘Metro Police Services (MPS) are well placed at municipal level to proactively address crimes through the rigorous enforcement of their other two mandates – traffic enforcement and by-law enforcement. By ensuring that traffic laws and by-laws are observed, MPS will contribute to instilling a culture of lawfulness. The MPS can effectively contribute to visible policing and are in a position to observe violations of by-laws and less serious crimes.

The City is vehemently opposed to this proposal, as it will have a dire impact on the many communities who rely on Metro Police to increasingly fill the gaps left by an ailing South African Police Service. Our response to the national government is conveying this opposition, and we are committed to pursuing this matter to the Constitutional Court should the national government proceed with this indefensible plan.

If you feel you or your community would be adversely affected by these efforts to limit our current municipal enforcement powers, please share this article and help inform as many residents as possible. Under a collective resistance to these latest underhand attempts, we can hopefully present a strong voice that will see our services receive additional powers instead of trying to limit our success by removing the existing authority we already have.

Cape Town’s Metro Police Department has been in existence for 22 years, and is punching way above its weight in the fight against crime. During the 2022/23 financial year, officers made 5,662 arrests and confiscated nearly 35,000 units of drugs, 74 firearms, and more than a thousand rounds of ammunition. That does not include the extraordinary number of firearm and other arrests made by City Law Enforcement and Traffic Services, which included just on 700 firearm-related arrests over the last 2 years.

Curtailing their powers would be catastrophic. It also boggles the mind why the national government would want to fix something that is not broken, instead of focusing on the complete overhaul that is required in SAPS and the criminal justice system. The proposal flies in the face of what’s needed on the ground, and in fact, the City reiterates its call for greater decentralization of policing functions.

Instead of trying to take the limited policing powers away from local government, the national government should be expanding the powers of Metro Police and Law Enforcement, or simply devolving the control of SAPS to local and provincial government altogether. Please share this article and make sure communities do not find out after it is already too late…

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