More power for traffic cops in South Africa could be coming

 ·26 Apr 2024

Metro police officers in South Africa are advocating for additional powers to allow them to investigate specific cases.

According to a parliamentary research paper published in 2019, one of the primary difficulties facing metro police is their lack of investigative authority regarding traffic and bylaw-related offences.

Currently, only the South African Police Service (SAPS) has the legal right to investigate criminal cases, and metro police officers are only allowed to detain suspects until the SAPS arrives to take them into custody.

However, Metropolitan police officers believe that if they were granted additional powers, they would be able to expedite the processing of cases and prosecutions related to by-law violations and traffic offences, reported EWN.

However, experts in the field have pointed out that allowing traffic officers to pursue criminals would require significant modifications to current legislation.

Currently, the Constitution does not permit metropolitan police to investigate cases, as noted by criminologist Nirmala Gopal from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Gopal further explained that if the scope of authority of metro police, which falls under local government jurisdiction, were to be expanded, the matter would need to be referred to the executive authority for the necessary changes to be made.

According to the 2016 White Paper on Policing, a regulatory framework must be established to grant metro police limited investigative powers.

This would allow them to conduct investigations and prepare cases for submission to court.

These powers, therefore, would be limited to specific categories, such as traffic-related matters, municipal by-laws, and crimes committed on or related to municipal assets or environment (such as theft and tender irregularities), among others.

The White Paper suggests this move will promote professional and democratic policing in South Africa.

The chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on policing, Albert Mammoga Seabi, recently spoke to EWN and noted that his department is in the process of amending the SAPS Act to allow metro police officials to investigate certain crimes.

However, Seabi mentioned that due to the time-consuming nature of the amendment process, the current administration might run out of time before the amendment can be completed.

He explained that they would need to submit a proposed amendment bill, consult with stakeholders, conduct hearings, and more.

As a result, the portfolio committee may not have enough time before the end of the term.

Nevertheless, Seabi emphasised that the amendment is a priority, and they plan to communicate this to the incoming seventh administration after the general elections on 29 May 2024.

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