The Committee held an information sharing meeting with a delegation from the German Parliament. The two Committees discussed their respective mandates and exchanged ideas of mutual interest.
The German delegation was particularly surprised that the Committee had the power to conduct unannounced oversight visits and to summon any person to appear it in the discharge of its oversight mandate. This was unique and differed from the German experience. The Committee informed the delegation that the renaming of the police was done independently by the Minister of Police and that it would not bring any material difference in the operations of the police force. The Minister had explained that it was done for disciplinary purposes. The Committee was committed to ensuring that the police were better trained and equipped to discharge their mandate.
Briefing on the mandate of the South African Parliament’s Porfolio Committee on Police
The Chairperson stated that the Porfolio Committee on Police was a multi-party Committee that was established in terms of the Constitution in May 2009. The mandate of the Committee included the initiation, consideration, amendment and passing of legislation. The Committee had powers to scrutinise and debate budget proposals and departmental reports, strategic plans and annual reports. The Committee also exercised its oversight function over the executive wing of government, more specifically the Department of Police and also private security entities. The mechanism for oversight was through Committee meetings, public hearings and oversights visits which could be announced or unannounced. It was also the Committee’s mandate to ensure that sunstainable measures were implemented by the Department in combating crime.
Although South Africa had a great challenge in combating crime the situation was under control and the Committee was geared up to ensure that the police provide adequate security during the 2010 Fifa Soccer World Cup. She expressed her hope that the meeting would give Members an opportunity to exchange ideas on the Fifa 2010 World Cup related security issues.
Briefing on the mandate of the Home Affairs Porfolio Commitee of the German Parliament
Mr Franz Hoffmann (Social Democratic Party-German Parliamentary Delegation (GPD)) informed the meeting that the German Home Affairs Committee had, inter alia an oversight role over the police force in Germany. The German police force was a professional and democratic institution that was trained to respect human rights. The police force was not organised at a federal level but at state level. The federal police was responsible for combating intenational crime whilst the respective state police departments were responsible for combating local crime. The German Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs had a similar role as this Committee with the exception that they could not conduct unannounced oversight visits. In Germany, the military and the police were two separate institutions.
Mr Wolfgang Winland (Green Party-GPD) commented that the South African Parliamentary Committee’s powers to summon any person to appear before the Committee in the discharge of its oversight mandate was unique and that the German position was that only the Comissions of Inquiry had such powers. He asked if this position was perculiar to the Committee or applied to all parliamentary committees. Did the Committee conduct investigations as a matter of routine or only if there were complaints from the public?
Ms A Van Wyk (ANC) replied that all parliamentary committees had powers to call any person for public hearings or meetings for clarification of any specific issues. In fact, the South African Constitution required public participation in most parliamentary processes including legislation making.
The Chairperson added that the right to call any person to appear before the Committee on any relevant issue was a constitutional requirement.
Ms Hilda Piltz (Social Democratic Party-GPD) stated that Germany had a decentralised police system. She asked if the change of name and the militarisation of ranks in the South African Police Service (SAPS) would have any meaningful impact in their performance and whether there were any other changes that were in the pipeline.
Ms D Schaffer (DA) replied that the renaming of the police was done independently by the Minister of Police and that in her view it would not bring any material difference in the operations of the police force. The Committee was committed to ensuring that the police were better trained and equipped to discharge their mandate. There was a programme to attract skilled personel and recall some experienced police retirees back to the police force.
Ms Van Wyk also agreed that the renaming of the police force would not bring any meaningful changes in the discharge of its duties. In fact, the militarisation of the police was only limted to renaming the police ranks along military lines for disciplinary purposes . The Committee was committed to ensuring that the police force remained public friendly in its operation. The Committee was also committed to ensuring a more modernised professionally trained,skilled and efficient police force.
The Chairperson concurred that the renaming did not mean that the organisation had been militarised.
Mr Stephen Mayer (Social Democratic Party-GPD) wanted to know how South Africa dealt with the issue of police corruption and whether there was any public body that was tasked with dealing with this problem.
Mr G Scheemann (ANC) replied that South Africa had an Independant Complaints Directorate (ICD)
which dealt with with all complaints from members of the public against the police and that included investigating police corruption . He however decried the fact that the ICD only made recommendations and had no say in the implementation of its recommendations. Legislation will be passed to empower the ICD to monitor the implementation of any recommendations that it made.
Ms Shaffer added that the Committee was determined to help in stamping out corruption in the police ranks.
Rev K Meshoe (ACDP) wanted to know why the German parliamenatry committees were not allowed to conduct unannounced visits in the discharge of their oversight duties. How did the German police force ensure uniformity in a decentralised police force and whether there were any advantages in decentralisation? What advise did the delegation have to give the Committee on matters relating to policing?
Mr Hoffmann replied that each German federal state had its own legislation. The training of senior police was done at federal level whilst junior officers were trained at a local level.Decentralisation had the advantage that it gave local police powers to deal with crimes most of which occurred on the ground.
Ms Piltz said that they could only conduct unannounced visits in their private capacity, otherwise it was not possible. The delegation stood to learn a lot from the South African experience.
The Chairperson wanted to know what was the average training period for the German police members.
Mr Hoffmann replied that there was a three year basic training for junior officers and a further two years for much senior posts.
Members were impressed by this.
Ms M Molebatsi (ANC) wanted to know if the German police involved the community in policing programmes that were similar to South Africa’s Community policing forums.
Mr Hoffmann confirmed that the local police did co-operate closely with all stakeholders.
Ms Shaffer wanted to know how the German government dealt with with police abuse and corruption.
Mr Winland said that Germany had no enitity like the ICD and neither did their law allow public participation and thorough oversight over departmental reports and that his opposition, the Green Party, had long been advocating for such positive changes.
Mr Frank Tempel (Social Democratic Party GPD) informed the Committee that in Germany members of the public who had complaints against the police were at liberty to report them for prosecution in the courts of law.
Mr Scheemann wanted to how the legislative framework accomodated German’s decentralised police sysytem.
Mr Hoffmann said that most legislation was crafted at the federal level and therefore implemenation was not a problem.
The Chairperson said that South Africa had a civilian police secretariat and this ensured full civilian oversight on police activtities.Did Germany also have a similar sysytem? What role did the German Members of Parliament play during the 2006 Fifa World Cup?
Mr Hoffmann said that the MPs were not directly involved in the World Cup and that their role was only limted to oversight on secuirity issues.
Mr Mayer recapped on the various issues that had been touched by the German Delegation and said that he was satisfied with South Africa’s readiness to host an incident free Soccer World Cup.
Mr Hoffmann gave the vote of thanks.
The meeting was adjourned.
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