Amendment to IPID Act to curtail police minister’s powers is in the works

Last week, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police resolved to confirm Police Minister Bheki Cele’s nomination, Jennifer Dikeledi Ntlatseng. Cele informed Parliament of her nomination at the end of June, well after the legally prescribed deadline of 28 February 2020, a year after Robert McBride’s term ended controversially.

At that meeting, the committee expressed the need to amend the legislation. They have also received a legal opinion that it wasn’t within their power to extend the deadline for Cele, as they have done, and that the legislation is silent on what happens when the minister doesn’t comply.

It took the committee just under two hours to listen to Cele’s briefing, dealing with the legal opinions and considering whether to confirm Ntlatseng’s nomination, after which committee chairperson Tina Joemat-Pettersson said: “There is no way we’ve simply rubber-stamped the nominee.”

Ntlatseng wasn’t interviewed and the only information before the committee about her was provided by Cele.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Joemat-Pettersson said the need to amend the legislation has become “acute”.

“The committee must be given the opportunity to do interviews.”

She said the act currently didn’t allow the committee to do interviews, or to interview any candidates other than those proposed by the minister.

‘I think it is urgent that we amend’

She said there appeared to be a perception in the public mind that the committee would do interviews like other committees do when making appointments.

“We have all learnt out of this process,” she said.

“We have done what was expected of us.”

She said the committee couldn’t be told by the media that it didn’t have access to documents.

The DA and FF Plus didn’t support Ntlatseng’s nomination due to the process followed. They do agree that the legislation should be amended.

FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald said he didn’t agree that the IPID Act prevented the committee from interviewing the candidate. He said Parliament’s rules gave the committee the power to do interviews, and sets its own criteria. But he would support an amendment if it would provide clarity.

“I think it is urgent that we amend.”

He also said that, according to Ntlatseng’s CV, she had worked until April 2017, but that there was nothing since.

Joemat-Pettersson said she had previously asked the committee to raise concerns, and that only DA MP Andrew Whitfield had done so.

After MPs said the act should be amended urgently, Joemat-Pettersson said the bill was already being drafted, and that she had seen a copy of the first draft.

“We should be fast-tracking this piece of legislation,” she said.

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