Right of reply: What exactly is the crisis the SAPS is facing?

2013-09-15 14:00

I am curious to know how an experienced and respected journalist like Jacques Pauw comes to believe that the collection of sweeping statements and outright distortions of fact that constitute the three paragraphs of his piece, “Just Google it, Ma’am”, September 8 2013, that he dedicates to attacking Jackie Selebi and I, pass for critical and objective analysis.

Pauw kicks-off his attack by charging that, not only did Selebi and I shame the SAPS, but that, we sowed the seeds for the crisis that is currently facing the organisation through this shame.

The questions that immediately arise from this charge are, what exactly is the crisis that the SAPS is facing? How did Selebi’s criminal conviction and the Public Protector’s finding of maladministration against me in my capacity as SAPS accounting officer (presumably, the facts Pauw relies on to justify his assertion that we shamed the SAPS) contribute to the creation of this crisis?

How does Pauw arrive at the conclusion that Selebi’s predecessor as SAPS national commissioner, General George Fivaz, and the numerous apartheid-era police chiefs before him are not to blame for this crisis?

Instead of providing answers to these questions, Pauw chooses to lurch on to yet an inexcusable distortion of the historical record.

He claims that “Phiyega inherited a broken and fractured police service with low morale and little credibility”.

This, against the backdrop of the reality that a snap survey of police officers and the country’s citizens would show that staff morale within the SAPS as well as the public confidence in the organisation were at record highs during my tenure as national police commissioner.

This is a time that did not see a single picket by members of the SAPS, a period that saw an end to the phenomenon of police officers applying for a discharge from the force and an avalanche of applications by police officers who had left the SAPS in previous years who wanted to return.

This is also a time that saw drastic reductions in the levels of most categories of crime resulting in the overwhelming majority of the country’s citizens proudly declaring that the SAPS was, finally, transforming into an effective and service-oriented crime-fighting machinery.

That the SAPS was, finally, succeeding to ensure that they could sleep peacefully at night, confident that the days of our country being terrorised by criminals were truly and honestly behind us.

Pauw then ends his attack with the charges that Selebi’s decision to disband specialised units was a blow against the SAPS’ crime-fighting capacity as well as that both Selebi and I abused our power as police chiefs to settle political scores.

Not surprisingly, Pauw does not bother to engage with Selebi’s rationale for disbanding these specialised units. Neither does he bother to acknowledge that it is I who ordered that this decision be reversed, let alone engage with my own reasons for doing so.

Similarly, he does not bother to spell out what it is exactly that Selebi and I did that amounted to an abuse of power to settle political scores.

To him, it is enough that he has thrown-up this charge. His readers simply have to trust that because he has said it, it must be true. The fact of the matter is that, at least speaking for myself, there is not a single policing decision I made as police chief that can be shown to have been based on unlawful considerations.

When all is said and done, Pauw’s diatribe against Selebi and I is nothing but a rehash of the hot air that the Democratic Alliance’s Dianne Kohler-Barnard whom he cites so fondly in his piece has been blowing over the years without any of the African National Congress’ deployees in the government structures that oversee the work of the SAPS bothering to stand up and challenge her.

This, however, is not an excuse for Pauw to reproduce it as objective fact when he has never taken the time to thoroughly interrogate it, regardless of how much he likes Kohler-Barnard. The principles of his profession demand no less from him.

» General Bheki Cele is an ANC NEC member and a former national commissioner of the SAPS.

- Bheki Cele

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