Newsmaker: The snake that eats other snakes

2016-12-04 06:52
Setlhomamaru Dintwe (Alicestine October, Netwerk24)

Setlhomamaru Dintwe (Alicestine October, Netwerk24)

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Johannesburg - He describes himself as a cocktail – an “all-in-one” – when it comes to matters dealing with South Africa’s criminal justice system. And he told MPs that to excel at his new job he would have to become “the snake that eats other snakes”.

MPs were bowled over, not only by Setlhomamaru Isaac Dintwe’s colourful language, but by his very impressive CV, with strong qualifications.

Dintwe is set to become the country’s new inspector general of intelligence, after 75% of the National Assembly’s MPs endorsed his name this week. An inspector general of intelligence is the overseer of South Africa’s spies, the man the public goes to with their spy-related complaints.

The level of support he received from MPs is significant, considering that on two occasions the opposition (through walkouts) and ANC MPs (through a stayaway from Parliament) frustrated the process of approving former ANC MP Cecil Burgess’ candidacy.

Dintwe is a 40 years old and head of the police practice department of the College of Law at the University of SA (Unisa).

He has never married. He declared this in his CV. He previously worked at the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) and has an illustrious career in the South African police service, including being a lecturer at the School of Criminal Justice at Unisa.

Dintwe was the last candidate to be interviewed on November 8, the first day of a two-day interview process held in Parliament. But despite the long wait – over eight hours in a small room – he was sprightly when he finally faced MPs.

In turn, MPs were impressed by his positive energy and confidence.

He told them that to do the job of an inspector general of intelligence well, one had to be a hunter who hunted other hunters.

“The role of the oversight officer is that you have to become a snake that eats the other snakes. That is the role of the inspector general of intelligence,” he said.

Dintwe, from Pretoria, has a long history in the police.

He is a doctor in police science, specialising in forensic investigations, a degree he obtained from Unisa.

He has a string of other policing-related qualifications, including a Bachelor’s in criminal justice (from North-West University), a Bachelor’s in technology of policing (Technikon South Africa) and a master’s degree in technology of forensic investigations.

He is a published author, and has worked as a constable, a detective and an anti-corruption investigator. He told MPs he was an expert in forensic investigations.

“I am competent for this office. I’m a cocktail, all in one. My career goes across all different spheres ... involved in anything which deals with the criminal justice system in this country,” he said.

Among the challenges awaiting Dintwe are finalisation and release of reports into investigations by the office, fighting legal battles that have been launched due to the failure to finalise and release the reports, and filling vacant posts that could not be filled since March 2015.

These were some of the problems revealed by senior staff members who were interviewed by Parliament for the inspector general position.

The joint standing committee on intelligence announced last week that there had been unanimity in the committee that Dintwe had done the best during the interviews. This week, all the parties in the National Assembly bar the EFF supported his candidacy.

The DA already has a list of complaints lined up for his office: the alleged politicisation of the spooks; the appointment of the intelligence director-general, Arthur Fraser, despite a chequered past; and the relationship between Minister David Mahlobo and a rhino-horn pedlar.

It emerged last week that Dintwe, as an expert in police matters, had submitted a court affidavit in the legal battle between Police Minister Nathi Nhleko and Robert McBride, the head of Ipid, in which he backed the
minister’s failed bid to remove McBride as head of the watchdog body.

Dintwe argued there was a need for executive authority over Ipid and a case for it to have limited independence, as it pursued the same objectives as the police.


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