Police Minister Bheki Cele is back on the right side of the law regarding the appointment of a new head for the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), but court proceedings can prevent that this post, which has been vacant for almost 18 months, is filled quickly.
In a letter dated 30 June 2020, Cele informed the National Assembly that he has nominated Jennifer Dikeledi Ntlatseng as the preferred candidate for the Executive Director of Ipid position. This was in Thursday’s Announcements, Tablings and Committee Reports (ATC) document.
News24 understands Ntlatseng held a position at the Gauteng Department of Community Safety until 2017.
As per the Ipid Act, the minister must nominate a suitably qualified person for appointment to the office of executive director and parliament’s police committees must, within a period of 30 parliamentary working days of the nomination, confirm or reject such a nomination.
The post became vacant on 28 February 2019, when Robert McBride’s term ended.
This after Cele was adamant he should not be reappointed, and the ANC contingent on the previous parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police ensured his contract was not extended in a contentious process early last year.
The Ipid Act requires the post be filled within a reasonable time, not exceeding a year, but by 1 March 2020, Cele hadn’t nominated a candidate. On two occasions the committee gave him an extension. While Cele’s nomination is now before Parliament, it is not yet plain sailing to fill the post.
On Tuesday, the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) said it has written to Cele, the Portfolio Committee on Police and Ipid, cautioning them not to proceed with the appointment process.
“The parties are all respondents in a matter, brought by the HSF, concerning the renewal process relating to the Executive Director of IPID’s term of office. The matter is currently before the Supreme Court of Appeal, awaiting a hearing date and any attempt to appoint a new Executive Director at IPID prior to the court’s judgment, would be unlawful,” reads a statement from the foundation.
HSF’s case is concerned with the question of whether the minister and the committee were permitted to take a decision not to renew the tenure of McBride, and the interpretation of the Ipid Act in this regard.
“Until the court has pronounced its judgment, the office of the Executive Director cannot be viewed as vacant and, as a result, any appointments made to this office would be unlawful,” reads HSF’s letter.
“Against this background, the HSF is making a formal request that any appointment process in respect of IPID’s Executive Director be halted until such time as the abovementioned matter has been finally determined.
“Any unlawful appointment would have dire consequences for the administration of justice and an important corruption fighting institution, IPID, as well as the perception of IPID. This is not to mention that any unlawful appointment is, legally, void ab initio.”
The HSF expects that the SCA will hear the matter in November.
After McBride’s departure, Cele appointed Ipid CFO Victor Senna as acting executive director. In March, Cele appointed Patrick Setshedi as acting executive director.
In June, President Cyril Ramaphosa enacted the Independent Police Investigative Directorate Amendment Bill. This act removes the power to dismiss the Ipid head from the minister of police, and places it in the hands of the Portfolio Committee on Police.