The promotions by acting police boss Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi – all to the rank of full colonel – have sent shock waves through the police.
City Press can reveal:
» Two VIP guards jumped six ranks – from sergeant to colonel;
» Two leapt five ranks – from warrant officer to colonel;
» Two jumped three ranks – from captain to colonel; and
» Two more VIP guards were promoted one level up – from lieutenant colonel to full colonel.
Two police sources told City Press the posts were not announced within the unit and no interviews were conducted.
All the guards were promoted in the past month.
According to a well-placed police source, all eight of the promoted members had been assigned to protect Zuma since 2005, when he was fired as deputy president.
This has sparked rumours within the police that the promotions were a reward for loyalty to Zuma – and has caused frustration and unhappiness within the presidential protection unit.
In response to questions, the police did not clarify why the six were suddenly promoted.
Three independent sources have confirmed the promotions.
The promotions would more than triple the salaries of the sergeants, from about R137 000 to R496 000 a year.
An equivalent appointment in the public service would be the appointment of a clerk as a director.
Police spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo confirmed “the number of members promoted to the rank of colonel was indeed six, but these members were not all sergeants”.
Naidoo said he was not at liberty to disclose who the officers were protecting “due to security reasons”.
“In view of these members having served several years in the environment of VIP protection, they have the necessary experience and acquired skills that warrant them being promoted.”
But the promotions have apparently deeply divided the presidential protection unit.
A member of the unit said the promotions had infuriated many members, who had been in the service longer and who were better qualified.
Oscar Skommere, general secretary of the South African Police Union, said that the legal power conferred on the commissioner to appoint and redeploy members of the force
“Members protecting politicians have told us the politicians will say to the police commissioner, ‘I want so and so to be promoted’.”
Another senior police source said a number of ministers had been asking the commissioner to promote their VIP guards to ensure their loyalty.
Gareth Newham, head of the crime and justice programme at the Institute for Security Studies, said the promotions were “highly irregular”.
“The massive shortcomings and high levels of corruption in the police are all caused by appointments such as these,” he said.
Newham said the promotions represented a dramatic departure from the police’s guidelines, which only allowed for the commissioner to override the policy guidelines in very special circumstances.
The promotions appear to flout the guidelines in the police’s promotion and grade progression policy.
The guidelines state that the promotion from lieutenant to captain, and from major to lieutenant colonel, requires at least “seven years uninterrupted service on each rank, respectively”.
According to guidelines on promotions posted on the police website, “levels and ranks cannot be skipped” and personnel “have to apply and compete with their peers for advertised posts”.
Newham said the officers would now be in the uncomfortable position of having to command officers who were once their seniors.
Major General Mxolisi Dladla, the commander of the presidential protection unit, declined to comment, but denied there was tension within the unit.
“The members here are very happy,” he said.
Mac Maharaj, Zuma’s spokesperson, referred queries to Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa.
Zweli Mnisi, Mthethwa’s spokesperson, said “the appointment of any police officer is a departmental function. The ministry does not at any point recommend or promote police officers.”
In 2010, members of the unit arrested a jogger who reportedly showed a middle finger to the president’s motorcade in Cape Town.
The man was forcefully bundled into a police vehicle and questioned about his political allegiances.
A subsequent probe by the Human Rights Commission found that his rights had been violated and Mthethwa had to apologise.