Inquiry will not fix the SAPS mess

2012-03-03 10:06

Tomorrow police chief General Bheki Cele will report for his commission of inquiry into a R500 million police building lease.

Cele is alleged to have acted irregularly and unlawfully when he signed-off on a needs assessment for new police headquarters.

If he did something wrong, he should be fired. If he acted criminally, he should be charged.

But whatever happens to him, his commission won’t solve the bigger problem – the South African Police Service (SAPS).

And the working (or non-working) of the SAPS affects all South Africans, not only property moguls and jittery bankers who fear Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan’s probe into all state building leases.

At the moment we have an acting police commissioner who does not believe justice should not only be done, but also be seen to be done. Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi is not fighting from the front.

His absence from the scenes of blown up ATM bombings, the grave of 16-year-old Thato Mokoka – shot by an on-duty constable – or last week’s bloody Umlazi clashes is telling.

At the same time, the SAPS’ head of crime intelligence is facing internal charges of irregular expenditure; the structure of the Hawks is about to change; corruption cases take years to solve due to a lack of experienced detectives; and a post-1994 “death squad” has allegedly been operating in KwaZulu-Natal.

We agree with police expert Dr Johan Burger that the entire SAPS should be subjected to a
judicial commission of inquiry.

“The country’s police force is in a shambles. You have a former commissioner who is serving time in jail for dealing in the worst crime and another who is suspended and is not likely to return. What does that tell you?” Burger said at a lecture this week. He is, of course, correct.

A fish rots from the head and the fact that no formal introspection followed Jackie Selebi’s corruption conviction confirms that this crucial public institution is not treated with the seriousness it deserves.

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