The independence of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) has been strengthened after 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.
Committee chairperson Tina Joemat-Pettersson welcomed the fact that the bill had been signed into law.
According to a statement released on Thursday, Joemat-Pettersson said it would change any perception of political interference in the work of Ipid.
“Ipid plays an integral role in upholding and safeguarding the fundamental rights of every person,” she said.
She emphasised that an effective democracy, anchored in accountability and responsiveness, fundamentally depends on strong checks and balances on power to succeed.
“This Act provides the necessary checks and balances within the police and Ipid environment,” said Joemat-Pettersson.
The amendment was necessitated by a Constitutional Court ruling that declared some sections of the Ipid Act as inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid to the extent that they authorise the Minister of Police to suspend, and take any disciplinary steps pursuant to suspend or remove from office, the executive director of Ipid.
The DA’s spokesperson on police, Andrew Whitfield, also welcomed the enactment of the bill.
“While this is a victory in the fight for Ipid’s independence, it is just the first step. As long as a minister can nominate an executive director of Ipid behind closed doors, a dark cloud of suspicion will hang over Ipid and it will remain exposed to possible political interference by the executive,” he said according to a statement.
He said the Ipid Act remains inadequate in its current form to protect Ipid’s independence, and is vulnerable to legal challenge.
He has already written to Joemat-Pettersson with a proposal to limit the Minister of Police’s powers to appoint the Ipid head.
Ipid is currently without an executive director, as Minister of Police Bheki Cele failed to recommend a candidate to the committee within the legally required period of 12 months after the previous head had left office.
Robert McBride’s term expired on 1 March, 2019, after the previous Portfolio Committee on Police came to the contentious decision not to renew his contract.