Only Number 1 can fix the cops

2013-11-03 10:00

Spare a thought for the national police commissioner, Riah Phiyega.

She’s like an owl let loose in a snake pit – she is a gentle and meditative soul in possibly one of our more Machiavellian institutions.

There is now no significant branch of the police service not at war with another. Crime intelligence is a tangled mess.

Two heads are currently suspended: Chris Ngcobo and Richard Mdluli. Reams of investigations have shown how deeply compromised intelligence is.

The Hawks’ boss, Anwa Dramat, appears to be fighting trumped-up rendition charges rather than fighting serious crime, which is why we pay him.

And now, Phiyega faces charges for tipping off Western Cape provincial commissioner, Arno Lamoer, to the fact that he faces an investigation for allegedly consorting with a druglord. It has the feel of a setup against Phiyega and it’s not the first time.

It is no small wonder that crime rates are ticking up after the trend lines in the worst crimes began to go south.

Phiyega’s first presentation of the crime statistics seemed set up to make her fail: they were presented as a fudged formula of multiyear calculations presented as proportions. Influential security analysts saw right through it immediately.

The cops simply have no leadership and this is not Phiyega’s fault. President Jacob Zuma, a securocrat, should have cleaned up first if he wanted to use a noncareer-cop appointment to signal a change of style.

Phiyega’s consultative, loyal and zen qualities may have worked if the slate was clean and the rot excised. But it isn’t. Mdluli desperately wants his job back and he is using proxies to fight his battles. Unless he is fired (or paid off), there will be no peace.

Then, the president must turn his attention to whether a commission of inquiry is not an appropriate measure to sort out the police service. There’s something wrong with the choice of police commissioners and in the entire organisation’s structure.

The democratic years have seen a career cop, George Fivaz, fail; a diplomat, Jackie Selebi, losing his way in a gangster’s paradise; and a strongman political appointee, Bheki Cele, come apart before his changes worked their way through the system.

Now the first black woman top cop is a flailing and sad figure. The only people smiling are the crime bosses, syndicates and mafiosi who operate across this great land. Only Number 1 can sort this out. He should act before our enterprise becomes criminalised.

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