Cape Town to increase police powers – including new ‘search and seize’ law


Another set of amendments to Cape Town’s by-laws has caused a public outcry this week – here’s how the city plans to beef-up police powers.

The City of Cape Town has copped some heat this week, after a set of draft by-laws were opened up to the public. Following this consultation period, the administration will then make a final decision on whether their proposals will be written into law. However, the new ‘police powers’ featured in the document are being fiercely debated.

Cape Town by-laws up for public debate

The Streets, Public Places and the Prevention of Noise Nuisances Amendment By-law of 2020‘ relates to all manners of public disturbances and the general peacekeeping for everyday life in CPT.

The amendments give police officers in the Mother City more rights to conduct searches without a warrant. It creates a provision which makes impounding vehicles easier, and enshrines a cop’s right to disperse of people in public and instruct them to return home. According to a statement issued by the city:

“The amendments are proposed to ensure more effective resolution of complaints from the public. It also takes into account the amended powers that have been afforded to law enforcement officers, and expands ways in which the City can recover costs where need be. No other amendments are planned for now.”

City of Cape Town

Proposed new powers for police in Cape Town

But the backlash on social media has been intense, with some citizens slamming the municipality for trying to introduce a ‘police state’ during lockdown. It wouldn’t be the first time a new by-law proposal in Cape Town kicked up a stink. Last year, proposed fines for homeless citizens sparked a national outcry.

We’ve seen the new draft laws, and they amount to the following:

New powers to inspect

  • An authorised official may enter any premises or business in violation of the by-law.
  • They can inspect the premises or any vehicle that is used or that they reasonably suspect is being used for the business and anything on the premises or anything in the vehicle.
  • Officers may also question any person on the premises or in the vehicle or any person who has recently been on the premises or in the vehicle.

Police would be given more rights to send people home

  • An authorised official may instruct a person who is in contravention of this by-law to leave and remain out of an area where a contravention has commenced.
  • Officers must give the person an opportunity to provide reasons why they should not be instructed to leave.
  • A person who fails to immediately comply with such an instruction is guilty of an offence.

Increased “stop and seize” measures under this by-law

  • Without a warrant, an officer may stop, enter and search any vessel, vehicle, premises or person suspected of an offence.
  • Officers can search and seize items if the person in control of the vehicle or premises consents to such stop, entry, search or seizure.
  • If an official believes that a warrant will be issued and that the delay caused by the obtaining of such a warrant would defeat the object of stop and seizure, they can go ahead with the search regardless.

Impounding rules beefed-up

  • An officer may, without a warrant, seize and impound any property, including but not limited to; an item, goods, equipment, vessel or a vehicle which is concerned with the commission of an offence.
  • The City must release the impounded item, goods, equipment, vessel or vehicle to the owner
    upon presentation of proof of ownership if no further legal action is required.
  • The City may, as per subsection 6, amongst others, sell, donate or dispose of these confiscated items.

Cape Town’s new draft by-laws – have your say:

The city has opened up the floor to its residents, who now have the best part of four weeks to submit their reactions and viewpoints to the committee. You can read more about the laws here, and contact officials via:

  • Email to
  • Written submission to Leon Wentzel, Law Enforcement Department, Omniforum Building, 94 Van Riebeeck Street, Kuilsriver 7580
  • Online at
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