South Africa’s Parliament and Law Enforcement Authorization

South Africa Crisis

Two South African law enforcement initiatives, one in Cape Town and the other in Gauteng, have sparked controversy due to their lack of explicit parliamentary authorization. The Cape Town City initiated the Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP) in 2019 to supplement the South African Police Service’s (SAPS) capacity in areas with high murder rates. By June 2023, 1,235 LEAP officers had been appointed.

In November 2022, Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi announced the establishment of a 6,000-strong force of crime prevention wardens (CPWs), with an initial 3,200 appointed in May 2023. The two initiatives differ in that LEAP is an expansion of Cape Town’s existing law enforcement capacity, while Gauteng’s CPWs are newly created. LEAP officers are not police but ‘peace officers’, as per South Africa’s Criminal Procedure Act, with more limited powers than SAPS or metro police.

The Gauteng government has been authorised to appoint peace officers as traffic officers, but this is illegal under the 2011 Gazette. The Cape Town metro has adopted an incremental approach to expanding LEAP, allowing consistent selection and training standards. However, the establishment of armed law enforcement organizations (CPWs) in Gauteng raises concerns about the risks of allowing government components to establish armed law enforcement.

There is no evidence that Gauteng has given forethought to develop and manage CPWs or has the organizational capacity and infrastructure to run such a large agency. The South African National Defence Force is currently training 1,785 recruits, bringing the total number of CPWs to nearly 5,000, making them the second largest state policing agency in South Africa. The creation of CPWs and LEAP in Cape Town may be in contravention of the country’s constitution, as LEAP personnel are armed with firearms.

Section 334 of the Criminal Procedure Act allows the Minister of Justice to designate personnel as peace officers, potentially subverting Section 199(3) of the constitution. This is particularly evident in the case of Gauteng CPWs, which circumvent Parliament’s authority. The unregulated creation of armed law enforcement organizations in South Africa poses serious risks to national security, policing, and crime.

The justice minister’s reluctance to create CPWs is a significant shift by the ruling African National Congress, which advocates for centralized police control. The Gauteng government’s inability to train police personnel in firearm use raises concerns about the role of provinces in shaping policing and the need for new armed organizations, urging investment in non-flapping policing for safety improvement.

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