Call to devolve police powers in Western Cape intensifies as lobby group approaches ConCourt

Call to devolve police powers in Western Cape intensifies as lobby group approaches ConCourt
Call to devolve police powers in Western Cape intensifies as lobby group approaches ConCourt

Africa-Press – South-Africa. The Cape Forum, a civil society organisation launched last year, has launched a court bid to restructure policing powers in the Western Cape.

The forum was established by lobby group AfriForum and other role players in April 2022.

It recently approached the Constitutional Court and submitted an application it said aimed to ensure residents of the province should get more of a say in the management of police services by way of a provincial referendum.

The forum said it believed policing was a far too important issue to be left solely to the provincial and national ruling parties, which are constantly “butting heads over it”.

In court papers it lodged last month, it cited Western Cape Premier Alan Winde as a respondent, along with the Department of Home Affairs and President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The forum said it had called on Winde to hold a referendum through which support from the residents of the Western Cape could be tested for the devolution of policing powers in the province.

Its application to the apex court is based on Section 127(2)(f) of the Constitution, which gives a premier the power and responsibility to be able to hold referendums in the province “in accordance with national legislation”.

The forum argued violent crime in the Western Cape had increased over the years to such an extent that current policing models were no longer effective in keeping residents of the province safe.

“Despite the rapid escalation in violent crime, the Western Cape police remains grossly under-resourced. This is a deep-seated problem,” it said.

The forum said while Winde shared the same view on the devolution of police powers in a letter he sent to the group last year, he added he was unsure whether he was able to exercise his power to call for a provincial referendum.

However, Winde had sought legal advice that no legislation currently exists which enables premiers to issue the required regulations to announce a referendum.

The forum said the situation meant either no sufficient legislation existed to allow premiers to hold referendums, or if it did exist in the form of the Referendums Act, it fell short in terms of the necessary powers for premiers to promulgate regulations.

It wants the court to declare the Referendum Act unconstitutional, as it fails to provide powers to regulate provincial referendums, and wants the act in its current form suspended, and to give Parliament 24 months to amend it.

The forum’s chairperson, Heindrich Wyngaard, said:

The DA has actively lobbied the national government to hand over policing powers to the Western Cape government, which it said the Constitution made provision for.

The provincial government said there was a firm basis for the devolution of policing to provinces.

But its calls were ignored and, instead, left Police Minister Bheki Cele visibly irritated.

Winde told News24 the provincial government had filed a notice to abide by and would not be opposing the application.

“We will await direction from the Constitutional Court as to whether we will be permitted to file explanatory papers on the questions before the court,” he said.

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