‘We are spoilt for choice’

2017-07-09 06:02
(File, News24)

(File, News24)

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SA has more than enough qualified and experienced people to lead the Hawks and police.

The names of two senior officers believed to have been unfairly pushed out of the South African Police Service (SAPS) have come up as potential candidates for the position of national police commissioner.

This follows the launch of a campaign to depoliticise the police service and to force government’s hand to institute a transparent process of appointing the next national police commissioner and the head of the Hawks.

The South African Police Union (Sapu) said the police service could always call back Leah Mofomme and Godfrey Sebeya for the positions of the national police commissioner and head of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks).

Mofomme and Sebeya were deputies to former police boss Riah Phiyega, but left after a fallout with her.

A qualified attorney with more than three decades’ service in the police, Sebeya is also a doctor of law and has led, among others, crime intelligence, detective and forensic divisions.

Mofomme holds a PhD in philosophy and an MBA and served in the police for almost 29 years.

Personal loyalty over expertise 

Sapu told City Press that these two names were proof that South Africa was spoilt for choice in its search for the next police boss and head of the Hawks.

“We are not saying they should be automatic candidates. They must be subjected to due processes through which the best candidate will be appointed,” said Sapu president, Mpho Kwinika.

They regard the pair as among a group of men and women in blue who have distinguished themselves “as true patriotic sons and daughters of the land” who fought crime with passion and excellence.

“It is unfortunate that they were booted out because of their dedication and commitment to the just cause of fighting crime in South Africa,” Sapu told City Press.

The police union has come out in full support of a campaign launched this week by Corruption Watch and the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), calling for transparent processes of appointing both the national police commissioner and head of the Hawks.

The two organisations’ combined budget of R350 billion – which was poured into running the police in the last decade – yielded mostly negative results owing to the appointment of the wrong candidates to head them.

The call is now for these key positions to be advertised and applicants to be shortlisted based on set criteria, and then publicly interviewed. Role players are advocating a similar selection-and-interview process that aspirant Constitutional Court judges are subjected to before being appointed.

“The key failure is that the [decisions to appoint] previous national police commissioners from [Jackie] Selebi onwards were taken in secret, without being guided by any clear criteria. This is why they failed,” said head of the justice and violence-prevention programme at the ISS, Gareth Newham.

“The president appeared to be using criteria such as personal loyalty to him, rather than expertise and knowledge to run the police. For example, [suspended Hawks boss Berning] Ntlemeza was illegally appointed without following a clear process and despite the knowledge that he was dishonest,” he said.

Sapu blamed political interference, saying it was South Africa’s main problem.

“There is a perception out there that suggests that politicians are appointing a national commissioner to look after their own interests ... and to cover up their corrupt activities, as opposed to serving the Republic without fear or favour.

“We firmly believe a career cop will make the best national commissioner, as long as there is a healthy arm’s length between the minister and the national commissioner,” Kwinika said.'

'Integrity beyond reproach' needed

Newham argued that the Hawks’ poor performance could improve if the appointment process of the unit’s head was changed.

He said there had been a huge decline in performance, despite a budget increase of more than twofold from the 2007/08 financial year (R36 billion) to the 2016/17 financial year (R87 billion).

He said the ISS based its argument on the Hawks’ performance, which showed that the unit had gone down from 14 793 arrests in 2010/11 to 5 847 in 2014/15. In 2010/11, it had secured 7 037 convictions; in 2014/14, convictions were down to a mere 1 176. He added that statistics also showed that 3 119 more people were killed last year than five years ago – which meant that the SAPS was underperforming.

Newham said they were not saying President Jacob Zuma or any future president should lose his constitutional powers to appoint police unit bosses, but that the recommended candidates should be chosen through transparent selection processes.

“The process we propose would ensure that the relevant experience, expertise and characteristics of the different applicants will be weighed up against one another so that the best possible [candidates] are considered. Among the minimum criteria is that the [person] appointed must possess integrity beyond reproach,” he said.

Newham said South Africa was spoilt for choice when it came to people who were qualified and experienced to enhance the safety of citizens and take the police service forward as an organisation.

“I know of excellent senior police [members] and other top public service managers who could do a good job of managing the police and the Hawks.

“However, our campaign is about asking that clear criteria be adopted for assessing applicants and that a transparent and competitive process be used to develop a shortlist of potential candidates ... we are not interested in lobbying on behalf of specific individuals,” he said.

The campaign was also based on the National Development Plan (NDP) segment that states: “The national commissioner of police and deputies should be appointed on a competitive basis. A selection panel, established by the president, would select and interview candidates for these posts.

“Clear and objective criteria should be established to ensure that the incumbents are respected and held in high esteem by the police service and the community.”

The NDP document on government’s 2030 vision has been adopted by the ANC.

Other senior career police contenders

1. Acting national police commissioner Lesetja Mothiba

2. Deputy national police commissioner Bonang Mgwenya

3. Deputy national police commissioner Steffan Schutte

4. Deputy national police commissioner Gary Kruser

5. Deputy national police commissioner Fannie Masemola

6. Acting Hawks head Yolisa Matakata

7. Former acting national police commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi

8. Nine provincial police commissioners

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