The Western Cape Department of Community Safety (DOCS) is at loggerheads with community police forums (CPFs) across the Western Cape due to the CPFs refusal to follow directives by the department. The CPFs are refusing to follow guidelines and directives issued by the department in relation to the election process within the forums, arguing that the directives do not comply with the provisions of the CPFs constitution.
“We’ve got a constitution that guides CPFs in relation to their operations, meetings and elections. It’s a document we’ve been complying with since its inception,” said acting chairperson of the Mitchells Plain CPF cluster, Aziza Kannemeyer.
“Our view has always been that in the event there are sections in the constitution which are outdated and need to be reconsidered or reworked, it would take the partnership of CPFs, the South African Police Service and DOCS to have that discussion to identify problem areas and collectively change them… We’re sitting with a situation where our AGMs are due and we are saying that as CPFs we will continue with AGMs as we’ve done in the past. We will follow the constitution [of the CPFs] because it is binding on all forums in the Western Cape.”
Kannemeyer accuses DOCS of creating disputes among community organisations meant to work together. She argued that DOCS simply wants to expand its role and made it clear that, according to her, CPFs are not happy that they’re accountable to the department and not just the community.
Kannemeyer wants the department to recognise CPFs as equal partners that need to be respected.
“We cannot be controlled by DOCS,” she said.
“We will boldly say as the cluster of Mitchells Plain that we are not opposed to AGMs. We want to have them and we want leadership to come in and for us to have vibrant CPFs…but don’t bully us into accepting directives which will change what’s in [our] constitution.”
Meanwhile, MEC for community safety in the Western Cape, Albert Fritz asserted that although the CPF board has a constitution the law of the country reigns supreme and accordingly his directives must be followed.
“There’s law in South Africa. You may have a constitution, but the South African Police Service Act is very clear – I must write directives for CPF elections. My directives are enabled by law – not a constitution you write for your own purposes,” said Fritz.
“You can’t decide to not follow directives…that kind of temerity is really a problem – where people just want to disregard the law. Of course the South African Police Service Act is superior to the constitution of the CPF board…it’s law.”
Fritz challenged Kannemeyer to explain why CPFs have a problem with “opening the process of elections” when “community policing means community policing – it doesn’t mean a clique who controls it.”
“The neighbourhood watches are the people watching the streets – why cant we give them a vote? We even had the IEC certify my directives and the provincial police commissioner sign it – who then withdrew because of pressure.”
“Let’s have an open democratic process…they [the CPFs] are afraid of open democratic elections that make them pure and proper community structures,” argued Fritz.
Kannemeyer insists that the CPFs are not trying to maintain any cliques, but rather to ensure that directives are engaging and consultative instead of dictatorial.
Fritz, however, accuses the CPFs of wanting to maintain complete control and prevent any loss of positions by current members.