Budget vote: Police: Dianne Kohler Barnard







WEDNESDAY 13 April 2011

Strict embargo against delivery

I’m asking today why it is that as a member of the Police Portfolio Committee I am convinced that the South African Police Service had begun a slow but relentless meltdown?

Certainly the world watched as Parliament voted to shut down one of the best crime fighting units – probably the best crime fighting unit – this country had ever experienced. The decision was implemented in complete defiance of public opinion, and marked a dark day in our democratic history.

Now the court has ruled that the disbandment of the Scorpions was unconstitutional.

Every legal firm, NGO, individual citizen every Member of Parliament who spoke against the closure of the unit, said they believed it would be. Yet honourable members Maggie Sotu and Yunis Carrim said the decision had been taken in Polokwane in 2007, and therefore would be implemented no matter what. The tens of thousands of petitions, the marches, the editorials, they were ignored, and today those two have egg all over their faces…and Deputy Ministerial-position rewards.

Citizen Hugh Glenister should receive a Presidential Award for his efforts on driving this matter through the courts – but I somehow doubt the current government will proffer one.

Full independence means exactly that – a unit of civilians who will service this country without fear or favour. Not members of SAPS – units of whom are now gathered together and have been named the Hawks. I asked then, and I ask now, who will Police the Police?

Which question leads me to exactly that conundrum…who do we have left to police the police?

Today we sit with a National Police Commissioner who has, according to the Public Protector, committed an act that is illegal. To quote from Advocate Madonsela’s findings: “Cele’s conduct was improper, unlawful and amounted to maladministration”.

The Minister asked me in the House a fortnight ago to wait until the results of the carbon copy investigation into the dodgy Durban property deal were ready, but that begs the question: Why Minister – why must we wait? Is one damning accusation of illegality insufficient to have the National Police Commissioner suspended? Must we wait for two such accusations – or three – or ten? How illegal does illegal have to be?

The Democratic Alliance has called on the President to dismiss the Commissioner, and yet he sits amongst us still. So now this matter will go to the NPA. Perhaps someone should explain to our National Police Commissioners that appearing before a judge is not part of their job description.

There can be no question that Commissioner Cele’s position is no longer tenable. The DA objected to his appointment, we said he was unfit for the position. The Public Protector now says he is not fit for office. We have already seen the indignity caused to our justice system by a police commissioner who disobeys the law.

The President repeatedly states his commitment to rooting out corruption and his drive to curb maladministration, and he must turn his words into action.

It is not only the National Police Commissioner’s lack of administrative ability, or his inability to balance a budget, leading, for example, to transfers from capital to pay salaries in contravention of the PDMF.

The SAPS were hauled before the Standing Committee on Appropriations to explain themselves…something that has never happened before.

Their Annual Performance Plan was late, and not in line with Treasury guidelines –they gave the committee a tatty cut-and-paste job wherein there were such substantial errors as entering R1,1-million where R1,1-billion should have been. This was the worst budget briefing I’ve attended to date. The targets are a mess or missing entirely, the management is bloated and the budget overspent, there is one administrator to every three operational members; and no infrastructure plan.

For the first time ever we’re seeing the entire budget spent before the end of the fiscal on things like huge national parties, with thousands of SAPS members flown, railed and driven in to attend – to the tune of R36-million.

Last year it was R29 million. It has taken me a year and a half to get those figures and it appears the Ministry imagines it has the right to do exactly as it wishes with tax payers’ money and that the checks and balances of Parliament are merely a minor irritation in their day.

I will continue digging, and I will find out how much was spent where, and if indeed the tenders for the thousands of units of free clothing, bags, caps and the like were only put on the SAPS intranet, and then only some 11 days before the event, swiftly pulled off again and then granted to a hastily-formed company headed by relatives of members of the top structure.

The commissioner said that “anyone who has a problem [with the National Police Day] must go die.” 

This shows contempt for Parliament, contempt for the oversight role of Members of Parliament and contempt for the taxpayers who fund the party. I have no intention of dying just to suit the Police commissioner, and every intention of digging.

The R66-million that has been wasted on these parties could, for example, have paid for CCTV coverage for the forensic laboratories, with a substantial amount over to aid some of the crumbling stations.

Another area where we are seeing dodgy deals done is in the area of personnel – and I’ve written to both the President and the chairperson of the Public Service Commission raising concerns about how he the Commissioner has violated both public service and police regulations as he has bounced appointees up the ranks into his bloated top structure overnight by as much as five levels.

In that the claims are also that he is guilty of fast-tracking the careers of others related to people around him, such as that of the father of his very, very good friend, the Provincial Commissioner of KwaZulu-Natal, it seems that cronyism has become acceptable within the SAPS.

Few can actually imagine why the President appointed Bheki Cele at all. He is the man who infamously said, and I quote, “A monkey came all the way from London to have his wife murdered here.” That was a reference to murder accused Shrien Dewani. The National Police Commissioner made that and many other comments in what seemed to be an all-out attempt in terms of prejudging the issue, to destroy the extradition application.

This is the same man who lives in a 4-million house – a purchase approved by the Accounting Officer according to the Minister. And of course the National Police Commissioner IS the accounting officer .

It just so happens that I received a letter yesterday from the Public Service Commission on this very matter, and their investigation at my behest has revealed that the offer to purchase the property was dodgy thanks to Public Works;
and on the SAPS side only one quote was obtained time and again for half a million rand’s worth of furniture.

Last year, this same Commissioner denounced Mzilikazi wa Afrika after that reporter from the Sunday Times revealed his involvement in the irregular property deal.

Within a matter of days, Mr wa Afrika was arrested by the SAPS on flimsy charges that were later dropped.

Certainly this was just one of dozens of attacks on journalists, but there was more: It was Commissioner Cele who chastised the Public Protector for her criticism of his conduct in the self-same Roux Shabangu property deal.

It was on Bekhi Cele’s watch the Public Protector’s offices were raided – and again the Minister said…just wait.

But that’s not all. Under this particular National Police Commissioner, the investigations by SAPS members are so unprofessional that there has been a 74% increase in referrals back to the lower courts – we’re talking 368 372 of them this past year.

This is not good news for the victims of crime…speaking of whom, under this Commissioner the contact and trio crime reduction targets have been quietly dropped to a miserly 4% to 7%. 4% in exchange for a R58-billion budget.

And then there is the target to reduce serious crimes by – 2%.These targets are so low the performance agreement contract signed by the Minister could be met by a private security firm, so we know that his job’s safe. The target for detection of crimes against children has been dropped, and there is no target at all in relation to Organised Crime?

And only now is the SAPS developing a manual telling SAPS members how not to destroy a crime scene.

But that’s not all. Having a look at the bloated top structure of the SAPS today, we see the current Police Commissioner has gathered together some most interesting characters.

The previous head of the VIP Protection unit has had a final written warning from SAPS in December last year after his drunken driving escapade, and was then simply shifted sideways.

The Public Protector had to pressure the National Police commissioner to look into allegations that Richard Mdluli chose not to investigate certain matters in Gauteng – and yet Richard Mdluli was hired anyway, and is now in a cell.

I’m currently awaiting an answer from the President on whether he did or did not ask Richard Mdluli to compile a dossier on the National Police Commissioner – and if he did, well, that would explain a great deal, wouldn’t it?

The head of legal services, Ms Mtimkulu, all but destroyed the SAPS Legal Services, but was allowed to stay on to reach her 10 years, when all charges were dropped and off she went on a fat pension. Legal Services has now been dropped from the latest official organogram.

But that’s not all. Supply chain management. SAPS members mislay or lose or sell their firearms with impunity, and the repercussions are zero.

Last year, the Police Commissioner told the Police Portfolio Committee that 3 226 SAPS firearms had been lost or stolen – a 17% increase on the previous year, and a 240% increase since 2001. We’re talking 13 438 SAPS firearms now being used against both the police and the rest of us.

Yet in less than 1% of cases of loss or theft are any charges brought.

Add to that the fact that the Police Service spent R16-million last year to purchase 4 000 new pistols, which should just about replace the ones now out on the street, and we have to accept that SAPS is today the leading source of the illegal arms trade in South Africa. The Auditor General is investigating this situation at my request.

In January last year the SAPS made much of throwing open the doors to former senior officers to re-enlist, and of lifting the moratorium on the hiring of new reservists. Great PR, but barely any experienced officers have been rehired, and the reservists are resigning en masse because of the utter contempt shown to them.

Reservists have given year after year of free service to the SAPS, and yet the commissioner said they use their uniforms to pretend to be police and do criminal acts, and that if they are unemployed they demand jobs. In a single sentence he insulted every single one of the 40 000 men and women who took the Minister at his word when he asked the citizens of SA to help in the fight against crime.

It has become obvious that the Commissioner has a personal issue with the reservists, and will do everything he can to shut them down.

In closing I must thank the members of the Police Portfolio committee for their collegiality, and especially our Chairperson Sindi Chicunga, for her leadership, and also thanks must go to the vast majority of SAPS members – the brave and honest men and women who work tirelessly in their attempt to keep us safe. They do a spectacular job despite a total vacuum in leadership.

Do you imagine that the Democratic Alliance is going to support this budget?