The DA has rejected Police Minister Bheki Cele’s nominee for the Executive Director of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid).
Six months after the legally prescribed deadline, Cele, in a letter dated 30 June 2020, informed the National Assembly that he has nominated Jennifer Dikeledi Ntlatseng as the preferred candidate for the post. This was announced in parliamentary documents late last week.
DA MP and spokesperson on police, Andrew Whitfield, said his party strongly objected to Ntlatseng’s nomination.
“We will not be supporting this appointment, especially in light of our repeated concerns regarding the fatally flawed nomination process,” Whitfield said, according to a statement released on Thursday.
“The Helen Suzman Foundation’s case before the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) concerning the renewal process related to the IPID executive director’s term of office is further cause to reject the Minister’s nomination.”
On Tuesday, the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF) said it had written to Cele, the Portfolio Committee on Police and Ipid, cautioning them not to proceed with the appointment process. According to the HSF, an appointment would be unlawful, as the matter was still before court.
HSF’s case centred around whether the minister and the previous Portfolio Committee on Police were permitted to take a decision not to renew the tenure of former Ipid head Robert McBride, and the interpretation of the Ipid Act in this regard.
Whitfield has since November last year appealed to the committee and Cele to ensure an open, transparent nomination process.
He said in the statement: “Not only has the entire process been shrouded in secrecy, but there is a case before the courts regarding this matter and earlier this year the minister himself missed his own legislated deadline to appoint a new head of Ipid.”
The DA submitted a Private Members Bill to amend the Ipid Act to limit the powers of the Police Minister in appointing the executive director of the police watchdog.
The Bill limits the police minister’s role, lest Parliament leads the process and allows for public participation.
“If we are going to see an end to police abuse we need to create a culture of accountability and consequence in the South African Police Service. The independence of Ipid is key to creating this culture and bringing those who commit these abuses to justice,” Whitfield said.
Currently, the Ipid Act allows the minister to nominate a candidate, which must be approved by Parliament.
The post became vacant on 28 February 2019, when McBride’s term ended.
This after Cele was adamant he should not be reappointed, and the ANC contingent on the previous Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Police ensured his contract was not extended in a contentious process early last year, which was also the genesis of the HSF’s court application.
The Ipid Act requires the post be filled within a reasonable time, not exceeding a year, but by 1 March 2020, Cele hadn’t nominated a candidate. On two occasions the committee gave him an extension.
After McBride’s departure, Cele appointed Ipid CFO Victor Senna as acting executive director. In March, Cele appointed Patrick Setshedi as acting executive director. Shortly after his appointment, Setshedi suspended several senior managers, including national head of investigations, Matthews Sesoko.
In June, President Cyril Ramaphosa enacted the Independent Police Investigative Directorate Amendment Bill. After an order by the Constitutional Court, Parliament amended the Act to remove the power to dismiss the Ipid head from the Minister of Police, placing it in the hands of the Portfolio Committee on Police.