When questioned about the independence of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID), Police Minister Bheki Cele relied on a law he had contravened for four months.
During Wednesday’s virtual sitting of the National Assembly, MPs were allowed to make statements or ask questions on each budget vote.
DA MP Andrew Whitfield said IPID has to be well-resourced and independent – but “today it cannot be said that IPID is truly independent and it cannot be said that it is well-resourced.”
He said the “police abuses” during the lockdown are cause for serious concern.
“But what is more concerning is that these abuses seem to be fuelled by a minister who shoots from the hip with his reckless comments,” Whitfield said.
He said IPID’s independence is compromised due to the “intimate role” Cele plays in nominating the candidate, and the fact that he himself served as police commissioner.
Whitfield said IPID is investigating 10 police generals for cases which include murder and corruption.
“As a former general himself, how does the minister plan to tackle corruption and police abuse among his former colleagues at the top of the SAPS?” Whitfield asked.
Two weeks ago, the National Assembly’s Portfolio Committee on Police resolved to confirm Cele’s nomination for IPID executive director, Jennifer Dikeledi Ntlatseng.
Cele informed Parliament of her nomination at the end of June, well after the legally prescribed deadline of 28 February 2020, a year after Robert McBride’s term ended controversially.
Section 6(5) of the IPID Act states the minister “must” fill the vacancy “within a reasonable time, not exceeding a year”.
But by 1 March 2020, Cele had not nominated a candidate.
On two occasions, the committee granted him an extension.
However, a legal opinion, obtained after the fact, stated that Parliament didn’t have this right.
Cele was, therefore, in contravention of the law for about four months.
Responding to Whitfield, Cele said: “There are laws in this country and we follow those laws. Until those laws are changed, nothing is going to be changing.
“For now, the appointment of the head of IPID is by the minister of police.”
The committee has since resolved to amend the legislation to strengthen Parliament’s role in the appointment.
“He knows there is a bill,” said Cele, referring to himself in the third person. “Until it changes, it won’t change the appointment until we change the law.
“Ten years [ago], Cele was the head of the South African Police,” said Cele. “If he [Whitfield] feels there should be some investigation on that, he has all the liberty to go put that on IPID to investigate Cele.”
ACDP leader Kenneth Meshoe said Ntlatseng doesn’t have any investigative experience and asked if she will be “schooled” in this regard and what measures will be put in place to ensure IPID’s effectiveness.
“There are 300 investigators, it is not the head that investigates,” Cele answered.