We need police leaders with integrity - analyst

2015-07-02 16:19


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Pretoria - If situations like Marikana were to be prevented in the future, South Africa needed police leaders with integrity who did not make decisions based on politics, an analyst said on Thursday. 

"To move forward and really see a change in the police and the police culture; to reduce police misconduct; to improve the effectiveness of the police to tackle violent crime, which we know they have, will require a revitalisation of the senior upper echelons of the South African Police Service [SAPS]," Gareth Newham from the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) told reporters in Pretoria. 

"We can't be happy if just one or two officials are held accountable - the national commissioner is replaced, one or two commanders are replaced... and to think that is going to change anything.  

"It is not one or two people that are going to change the SAPS - it is the top 60, the top 70 people... and I think it's high time government and the Cabinet, as a matter of priority, implement the recommendations of their own National Development Plan [NDP]."

'Recipe for failure'

Newham said the NDP specifically dealt with vetting police officers for higher positions and ultimately having a panel decide on recommendations for national police commissioner candidates from which the president made a decision. 

"When the post becomes available, we don't want someone parachuting into the organisation who knows nothing about policing and has no credibility in the police organisation or the public," he said. 

"That is a recipe for failure. You can't blame this all on [national commissioner] Riah Phiyega, except that she took a job she was not qualified for."

He said capable officers who could make good leaders were often sidelined by political appointments to SAPS leadership positions. 

Referring to politics, Newham said the commission of inquiry report into Marikana found police commanders took "irrelevant political considerations" into account when deciding what to do with the striking workers. 

The commission found former North West police commissioner, Lieutenant General Zukiswa Mbombo - based on the transcript of a conversation she had with Lonmin management - did not want mining companies to be seen to be supporting the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union; did not want the National Union of Mineworkers to be undermined by the companies; was responding to what she perceived as pressure from Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, and wanted to end the violence quickly so EFF leader Julius Malema could not take credit for defusing it.

"It is very strange for a police commander to be concerned with such considerations when you think about what her responsibilities are in terms of the law and in terms of her code of conduct," Newham said.

'Irrelevant political considerations'

The commission found that Phiyega also took political factors into account.

"So now we know our powerful police commissioner takes irrelevant political considerations into account when making decisions. This is probably not the only time this has happened," he claimed.

Newham said SAPS had to stand outside the role of politics, since it was there to protect and promote citizens' lives. Removed from politics, it was more likely to achieve the public's trust. 

However, he could not say that if police had not taken political considerations into account, the shooting at Marikana would not have happened. 

"[The report] does go on at length about political interference... it just doesn't have the evidence to make that leap. Would the police have acted the same way or not if they were not under political pressure is an open question," he said. 

He said emails sent by Ramaphosa, a former Lonmin director, mentioned officials taking "concomitant action" against the striking workers. 

Newham also highlighted that Phiyega and SAPS had initially said the shooting was in self-defense and not actually a result of its plan to disperse the strikers. The SAPS also lied about the actual implementation of its plan. 

The commission found that Phiyega should face an inquiry into her fitness to hold office and that investigations had to determine whether anyone should be prosecuted for the Marikana deaths, and whether the police could be held liable.

It recommended the minister of police and national police commissioner take care when making public statements or addressing members of SAPS.

"They should not say anything which might have the effect of ‘closing the ranks’ or discourage members who are aware of inappropriate actions, from disclosing what they know," President Jacob Zuma said in his summary of the report last month. 

"The SAPS and its members should accept they have a duty of public accountability and truth-telling, because they exercise force on behalf of all South Africans, the commission states."

'Police are policing in the dark'

On Thursday, Newham pointed to statistics showing crime intelligence productivity had decreased by 19% since 2011/12; 7 000 officers, including 1 100 detectives, had left the service in 2014/15 compared to 2 500 in 2012 and suicides by officers increased 35% between 2010 and 2013. 

He said these were the result of poor leadership in the SAPS.

"Police are policing in the dark. They are not getting the guidance they need," he said.

Pointing to a drop in crime intelligence statistics, he said: "Good police leadership would not allow that to happen."

He said a leader like Phiyega, who could have tipped off suspended Western Cape commissioner Arno Lamoer about an investigation into him, and who he claimed was protecting former crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli, did not show a good example of integrity to members of the force. 

Newham said good and hard working officers, capable of leading and eventually being promoted to higher positions in the service, were the necessary change that needed to happen to make the SAPS more trustworthy and more effective.

Read more on:    saps  |  iss  |  marikana inquiry

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