South African Police Car Masoyi
SAPS / Image via Wikimedia Commons

Parliament on Thursday welcomed the assent of a bill into law designed to strengthen the scrutiny of the South African police.

The signing into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa last week of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) Amendment Bill strengthens and reinforces the independence of the IPID whose job is to conduct independent and impartial investigations into identified criminal offences allegedly committed by members of the police force, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police said in a statement emailed to Xinhua.

“The assent further strengthens parliamentary oversight over IPID in relation to the suspension, discipline or removal of the Executive Director of IPID,” Committee Chairperson Tina Joemat-Pettersson said.

Furthermore, the Amendment Bill reinforces public confidence in IPID that it will be able, without undue political interference, to investigate complaints against the police fearlessly and without favour or bias, Joemat-Pettersson said.

The original IPID Act gave the Minister of Police absolute powers to suspend or remove the head of IPID without a parliamentary process. As a result, the Constitutional Court in 2016 declared parts of the IPID Act invalid and unconstitutional.

The IPID Amendment Bill was introduced to Parliament in March 2018 by the Portfolio Committee and published for public comments in the Government Gazette three months later.

The Bill was passed respectively by the National Assembly (Lower House) and the National Council of Provinces (Upper House) in 2018 and 2019.

The delay in passing the Bill was largely due to the 2019 general elections, according to the Portfolio Committee.

Joemat-Pettersson said she was cognisant that the process to remedy the defects identified by the Constitutional Court in the Bill had taken longer than was instructed by the court.

“With that said, it is important that despite the lengthy delay in amending the Act, we have now an important amendment that strengthens the independence of IPID,” Joemat-Pettersson said.

As the amended law strips the Police Minister of the power to remove the executive authority of IPID, this will change any perception of political interference in the work of IPID, said Joemat-Pettersson

“IPID plays an integral role in upholding and safeguarding of the fundamental rights of every person,”she said. Enditem

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