Proposed bill to ensure IPID's independence

Proposed bill to ensure IPID's independence

A new bill proposes changes to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate Act.

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Photo: Maryke Vermaak

Parliament might soon play a far greater role in holding the Executive Director of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) accountable.


The Portfolio Committee on Police gazetted the Independent Police Investigative Directorate Draft Amendment Bill on Friday, which suggests removing the minister's powers to remove the police watchdog's boss.


In September 2016, the Constitutional Court declared certain sections of the act invalid, as they have "the potential to diminish the confidence the public should have in IPID".


It stems from an incident involving the current IPID head Robert McBride.


He was suspended in March 2015 over discrepancies between the provisional and final reports into the unlawful rendition of four Zimbabwean nationals.


The police watchdog's first report recommended criminal charges be brought against then national Hawks head Anwa Dramat and the Gauteng head Shadrack Sibiya.


The second report, however, concluded the two were not implicated in the matter - prompting the police minister to take action.


Confirming an earlier ruling by the High Court, the Constitutional Court described the minister's powers as "invasive".


"This destroys the very confidence which the public should have that IPID will be able, without undue political interference, to investigate complaints against the police fearlessly and without favour or bias."


It gave Parliament until September this year to amend the sections in question.


They include sections 6(3)(a) and 6(6) - the latter being the main focus.


It states the minister may remove the IPID boss on grounds of misconduct, ill health, or an inability to perform their functions.


"We want to ensure that IPID, as an oversight institution, can play an independent role," said committee chairperson Francois Beukman. "They should be able to act without fear or favour."


The amendments propose that the IPID boss may only be removed on grounds of "misconduct, incapacity or incompetence" after an investigation by a parliamentary committee.


But this would require a vote supported by two thirds of the members of the National Assembly.


The minister has not entirely been removed from the process as they will be able to suspend the IPID director once the parliamentary process is underway.


The proposed amendment are currently open for public comments.


Parliament has also ordered lawmakers to amend sections of the South African Police Service Act and the Public Service Act.


The committee plans to table the bill before parliament by the fourth quarter of the year.

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