Lines between roles of minister and commissioner ‘blurred’, say experts

Lines between roles of minister and commissioner ‘blurred’, say experts

Experts are hoping for the best in policing after President Cyril Ramaphosa appointed General Fannie Masemola as national police commissioner.

Policing expert Dr Johan Burger said in the past, Police Minister Bheki Cele was accused of overstepping the boundaries on an operational terrain – and that’s because he was frustrated by the former commissioner, General Khehla Sitole, who was, at times, nowhere to be found.

“And if he as the minister was not happy with how the commissioner implemented or acted, it was within his rights to hold him accountable,” he said.

“Remember, even if the president appointed the commissioner, the commissioner reports to the minister.”

Burger said Section 207 of the constitution states that the president must appoint a woman or man as national police commissioner to manage the police service.

“Subsection two stipulates the national police commissioner must exercise control over and manage the police service according – and this is the important part – with national policing policy and the directions of the Cabinet member responsible for policing, in other words, the minister.”

Burger said, in short, the minister laid down policies and gave the commissioner directives.

Head of criminology at the University of Limpopo, Professor Jaco Barkhuizen, said the lines between the roles of the minister and the commissioner were blurred and should not be.

“Cele’s job is to be the political head of the police. The minister gives political guidance to the commissioner. The commissioner is there for operation and policing issues,” he said.

“Cele is there to give directives and orders but the commissioner is the boss of all police. A police minister cannot threaten to have someone arrested. The police minister cannot arrest someone. That is the responsibility, duty and right of the police members.”

Political analyst Piet Croucamp said when the two roles mixed people saw what happened between Cele and Sitole.

“Cele was asked why Sitole was not doing his work and he answered he wasn’t able to locate him during
the unrest in July last year. Cele then said that’s why he got involved with the operations.”

He hoped Ramaphosa would split the two roles – “not just in public but also on an operational level.”

He said it would be impossible for the new commissioner to do his job if the minister was looking over his shoulder.

“When the minister interferes in the commissioner’s jurisdiction, it becomes difficult to determine who to hold accountable at the end of the day,” he said.

– marizkac@citizen.co.za

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