Former Ipid boss Robert McBride. Picture: THE TIMES
Former Ipid boss Robert McBride. Picture: THE TIMES

The Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) Amendment Bill, which is meant to curb the powers of the police minister to suspend or remove the head of the police watchdog, is a step closer to becoming law.

On Tuesday, the National Assembly voted in favour of the bill; it will now be sent to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence.

In 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled that the police minister had no authority to dismiss the Ipid head without parliament instituting the necessary processes. This was after former police minister Nathi Nhleko moved to suspend Ipid executive director Robert McBride.

McBride returned to the helm of Ipid in 2016, after a bitter turf war with Nhleko and former acting national police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane.

The Constitutional Court said in its ruling that Ipid was an independent body established in terms of the constitution. It noted that Section 4(1) of the Ipid Act required it to function independently of the South African Police Service (SAPS).

"Given the nature, scope and importance of the role played by police in preventing, combating and investigating crime, Ipid’s oversight role is of cardinal importance," the Constitutional Court said in its ruling.

The ANC in Parliament said on Tuesday it was pleased with the passing of bill. "The amendments to the act governing the independent police watchdog, Ipid, aims to restrict political influence in the removal and suspension of the police oversight body’s executive directors," said ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu.

"Furthermore, the amendments give Ipid more independence from the police minister. When the bill is passed into law, it will require parliament to have an oversight role in which a two thirds majority vote will be needed in the National Assembly to suspend, discipline or remove the executive director of Ipid."