Is the SAPS an enclave of criminals?

2013-06-23 10:00

Revelations by the Times this week that an armed robber doubled as a top police spy for more than a decade underlines the need for a commission of inquiry into the SA Police Service (SAPS).

The embattled service, which has seen a police chief being convicted of corruption and another one being fired for irregularities, is a time bomb waiting to explode.

For 10 years, Captain Morris “KGB” Tshabalala operated as a covert agent in crime intelligence, notwithstanding his conviction for armed robbery in 1996. After he abandoned his appeal in 1998, he avoided imprisonment and started looking for a job in the police.

A system in which it is possible for a convicted armed robber to be promoted to the rank of captain in crime intelligence is rotten and possibly beyond repair.

How was it possible for Tshabalala to avoid scrutiny, pass the much-hyped vetting system of crime intelligence, gain access to the state’s biggest secrets and continue working as a member of a crime syndicate, as is alleged?

Tshabalala was finally nabbed after being linked to a cash-in-transit heist in February. This week, he was finally behind bars – 17 years after his conviction.

Of course all police officers aren’t corrupt criminals, but Tshabalala’s story leads to the inescapable conclusion that certain sections of the SAPS have been infiltrated by sophisticated criminal syndicates. The degree of infiltration is anyone’s guess.

Rumours abound that General Riah Phiyega will not survive her poor performance at the Marikana Commission; that she will take the fall.

Potential successors, among them top cops with their own clouds covering their heads, are already lining up.

But it can’t be business as usual for President Jacob Zuma and Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa when they make decisions about the future of the SAPS.

This is a dysfunctional, broken institution that needs to be lanced and examined before it can be fixed.

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