The Western Cape Department of Community Safety, South African Police Service and the Independent Electoral Commission on Wednesday signed an agreement that will see the electoral body managing and overseeing the election processes of Community Policing Forum (CPF) bodies across the province. CPFs in many communities have become disorganized and prone to internal power struggles.IEC Western Cape regional manager Reverend Courtney Sampson said it would not be a tough transition to facilitate the election process of CPFs across the province as the electoral body has been established in the communities where these elections will take place.
“These communities that we will be working with are the very communities that vote on Election Day; so our commitment and involvement with these communities is very important to us,” Sampson said.
“What is also important is the democratic structures and ideas we have in our country, the challenge is to get them implemented properly. The concept of CPFs is a wonderful one, but it has to work, but if it doesn’t then it creates problems. This will forge better relationships with our partners, into the future.”
Community Safety MEC Dan Plato said it is important for the community these organizations serve that their leaders are elected in a free and fair manner. He said all community members will be able to take part in electing their CPF leaders.
“It’s important that these elections … stay free of political influence, there are hotspots where there are not necessarily political entities but other bodies at work who will try to use the CPF as a means of spreading their influence among the community.”
SAPS General Sharon Japhta said when discrepancies are found in a CPF’s election process, from now, on the election will be put under review and evaluated according to the IEC’s standards.
Often in communities where there is conflict between Police, CPFs and the community, police authorities would hold general meetings with the residents of an area and hear their complaints. She said free and fair elections, however, may ease tensions between police and communities within the Western Cape.
All candidates for CPF executive elections will be vetted, to ensure that they do not enter the organization with any ill intent.
“There is a screening process, it must be remembered that it is not individuals that apply for membership to the CPF but rather organizations. One person will represent that community body or NGO in the CPF, and these organizations are screened. Each of these organizations should have a constitution and through that we will be able to screen the individuals,” she explained.
“What may happen is that while they are inside the CPF individuals may become involved in criminal activity and that becomes a disciplinary issue. But before they apply to be elected, if they have a criminal record, they will not be allowed to take part in the elections for the CPF.” VOC (Andriques Che Petersen)