Police policing police

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Police will be keeping a close eye on their own this financial year, as they intensify efforts to root out corruption within their ranks. The prevention, detection and investigation of corruption within the South African Police Service will be a major focus area for 2011/12, Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa said in his department’s budget vote in Parliament.

“Emphasis will be put on the implementation of the SAPS’ Anti-Corruption Strategy aimed at curbing corruption and punishing those members with evil intentions,” he said. The state BuaNews agency says in the past financial year, 119 police officers were dismissed after allegations of fraud and corruption against them were investigated.

A further 44 police officials at ports of entries were investigated for various criminal charges, and face additional charges through SAPS internal disciplinary procedures, BuaNews added.

Another major focus for police in the current financial year will be next month’s local government elections. “South Africa’s security forces have been preparing for over a year and are now ready to ensure that yet another major event takes place in a peaceful environment. We are working closely with all the stakeholders in this regard for the local government elections,” he said. – BuaNews

Business Day newspaper adds Mthethwa also claimed significant successes for the Hawks but also took a drubbing from some MPs over the conduct of national commissioner General Bheki Cele and the arrest of crime intelligence head Lieutenant General Richard Mdluli.

The future shape of the Hawks, or Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation, is uncertain after last month’s Constitutional Court ruling that it lacked true independence and as a result was vulnerable to political interference. Parliament has been given 18 months to rectify the matter, the paper says.

A cloud has also hung over Cele since Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that he was guilty of misconduct and maladministration over a R500 million lease of police headquarters in Pretoria. Introducing his budget vote in an extended public committee of the National Assembly, Mthethwa promised that this was to be “the year of the good cop” and claimed successes for the Hawks between April 1 last year and March 31 this year.

Regarding commercial crime, the Hawks arrested 8294 people and secured 5267 convictions. In organised crime, they made a further 2439 arrests and secured 532 convictions. “During the period under review, the directorate profiled and pursued 50 most-wanted suspects for armed robberies, ATM bombings, cash-in-transit and bank robberies and apprehended 49, and only one suspect is still at large. The tracing team is in hot pursuit of the last suspect.”

Mthethwa also claimed significant success from both the Hawks and an anticorruption unit in fighting corruption. He cited the arrest of two Home Affairs officials for accepting a R200 000 bribe from a company CE in return for consideration in a R19 million tender.

The Hawks also made significant drugs busts during the year, including the interception in December of a boat in Knysna with 1.7 tons of cocaine valued at R510 million, resulting in five arrests.

However, Mthethwa received criticism from an unexpected quarter when police committee chairwoman Sindi Chikunga, a ruling party MP, said: “We noted with serious concern the arrest of the head of crime intelligence, Gen Mdluli, and other SAPS members for the crimes that include murder they are suspected to have committed in 1999…. Whilst we believe in the noble principle of ‘innocence until proven guilty’, it is worrying that such senior managers are suspected in the first place.”

Opposition Democratic Alliance party MP Dianne Kohler Barnard and Freedom Front Plus MP Pieter Groenewald earned Mthethwa’s ire with sharp attacks on Cele. Kohler Barnard called for Cele to be suspended over the lease affair and for presiding over a “bloated” police bureaucracy. She said he lacked administrative skills. Groenewald described Cele as a handicap to the police and said he should go.



Mthethwa responded with a strong endorsement of Cele, saying “this national commissioner you are talking about is the best national commissioner … in the fight against crime. He leads from the front; he doesn’t sit behind a desk, he is out there.”