The Democratic Alliance intends to table a private member’s bill (PMB) in Parliament to amend the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) Act to limit the powers of the police minister to appoint the executive director of the police watchdog, the party said on Sunday.

“IPID is in a state of complete chaos due to a lack of leadership and political interference,” Andrew Whitfield, DA shadow minister of police, said in a statement, the Cape Times reported.

In the past two weeks, IPID’s acting executive director Victor Senna had been replaced, head of investigations Mathew Sesoko had been suspended, and IPID investigator Mandlakayise Mahlangu was murdered while investigating former South African Police Service (SAPS) head Khomotso Phahlane, he said.

In 2019, Parliament amended the IPID Act to limit the powers of the minister to remove an executive director of IPID. The DA believed that this amendment did not go far enough and that there was an urgent need to further limit the minister’s powers to appoint an executive director.

Currently, the IPID Act gave the police minister the power to “nominate a suitably qualified person” which Parliament’s police committee had to either confirm or reject.

The DA believed this process was problematic, because it gave too much power to the minister and reduced the role of the committee to a mere tick-box exercise while opening the directorate to undue political influence.

The DA proposed amendments to section 6 of the IPID Act to allow for an independent panel to shortlist candidates. The committee would then interview the candidates and recommend a preferred candidate to the minister. The process would also allow for public comments on the shortlisted candidates.

“We also trust that these amendments will speed up the process of appointing a permanent IPID head,” the alliance said. “The institution has had an acting head for the past year and despite continued assurances, [Police] Minister Bheki Cele continues to drag his feet.”

The DA’s proposed amendments to the IPID Act would allow for greater parliamentary oversight in the appointment of an IPID head; reduce the chance of a political appointment; and ensure public participation in the appointment process.

These amendments were critical to ensure that stability was restored at IPID and to ensure that IPID achieved its mandate, which was to “provide significant investigative breakthroughs in detecting systematic corruption and procurement irregularities” in the SAPS.

“An honest and professional police service cannot be achieved without a capable oversight body,” Whitfield said.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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