New order sidelines top cops

2017-07-05 13:45
Mebra Nzimande.

Mebra Nzimande. (Ian Carbutt)

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A veteran Organised Crime Unit detective Captain Madoda “Mebra” Nzimande, who retired on June 30, has expressed “deep hurt” that seasoned police officers are being sidelined by the police hierarchy.

He believes new policies being applied do not bode well for crime fighting in KZN and throughout the country as experienced policemen and women are being prevented from acting on information, making arrests and “doing our jobs”.

His heart “cries out” for the public whom the police undertake to “protect and serve”.

Nzimande (60), has been one of Pietermaritzburg­’s legendary crime fighters for 34 years.

He survived being shot in the line of duty, courageously faced and arrested countless armed criminals, experienced gruesome crime scenes and worked tirelessly day and night to keep the public safe, says his commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Pete Scott.

Scott paid tribute to Nzimande as “one of the best in the country” with a very widespread informer network.

Nzimande is feared by criminals and loved by the community for his sense of humour and dedication to his job, and state advocates who spoke at his farewell said they will sorely miss his wisdom and experience in major trials.

Yet Nzimande told The Witness in an exclusive interview following his retirement that while he will miss his colleagues, part of him was not sorry to leave because of the way his unit was treated.

“Basically how we understand it is now we are supposed to just do nothing, while criminals go free. People are being killed, but our hands are tied because it is no longer our mandate.

“We can’t investigate crimes we have been used to dealing with for years and years, and we are not allowed to arrest anyone even if we have information about an armed robbery that is about to take place,” said a disillusioned Nzimande.

This is all due to recent orders emanating from national level and contained in a directive signed by acting provincial commander for organised crime, W.S. Mhlongo on March 14, 2017.

The document reads: “By instruction of DPCI National Head, DPCI members must not take any dockets that are not a mandate of DPCI cases, eg CITs (cash-in-transit heists), Bank Robberies, Business Robberies, Pension Robberies and Police Killings. The above cases must be investigated by General Detectives. The National Head emphasized that the political [sic] motivated murders must be taken by the newly established team.”

Nzimande said the directive is “extremely discouraging” for the experienced and dedicated policemen and women in the Organised Crime Unit who are being told they can’t do what they have done all their lives.

“They are told now is that they must only work on projects. It takes two years for a project and we are not even sure what it means ... Meanwhile people are being killed and we can’t act.

“The community comes to us crying for help, but we must tell them our hands are tied because it’s not our mandate,” said Nzimande.

Nzimande and his team — including the man he calls his “twin”, Musa Ndlela — and Dumisani Gasa, have a formidable record of solving high profile crimes. A lot of the credit is due to Nzimande’s informers.

But now Nzimande says all the established informer networks are being destroyed by the new policy. This is because informers only work with one police handler whom they trust, and their identity is strictly confidential.

Now officers are expected to ignore or pass on their information to stations if it doesn’t fall within their mandate.

“I can’t reveal who my informant is. I can’t put him in danger.

“Even if the station does follow up and makes an arrest, I won’t get any credit and my informer can’t get paid so why will he continue to provide information?” says Nzimande.

Nzimande joined the SAPS in 1983 and was based at Hilton. He was head-hunted in 1990 to join the then Pietermaritzburg Murder and Robbery Unit due to his track record of cracking numerous housebreakings that plagued the area.

He says he learned his skills from other seasoned officers.

“We should be handing over to the youngsters like what happened before. But now there is no one to replace us. It is disgraceful,” said Nzimande.

Nzimande said individual stations don’t have the time to properly investigate high priority crimes or the backing of a whole team like the Organised Crime Unit.

“Can they solve ATM bombings? I don’t think so,” he said.

Another criticism is that detectives at stations are “fast tracked” from college and expected to lead investigations without ever having worked in the field.

Also read Mebra’s biggest cases.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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