A Fish Rots From The Head

2016-02-22 11:17

“A fish rots from the head”-so says an old proverb. If this adage is true, we have much to weary of when it comes to the safety and security of the country. This weariness will still remain if we temporarily ignore or “forget” the direct impact of the now-suspended Gen. Riah Phiyega. She was in charge of the SAPS at the time of the Marikana massacre but “forgot” crucial information like the contents of long telephonic conversation she had had with the then Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa in the days leading up to that tragic day when 34 miners were mowed down by the police.

In the heady days following the dethroning of President Thabo Mbeki at the 52nd National Conference of the ANC in Polokwane, anyone and anything that seemed to stand between a man then referred to by his supporters as “100% Zulu Boy” and his ascent to the commanding heights of the stratosphere of South African politics was bulldozed away. No one and nothing would stand in the way of what Zwelinzima Vavi christened the Tsunami or (Zunami, if you will). One of the casualties of this battle was the specialised crime-fighting unit, the Directorate of Special Operations (DSO), more commonly referred to as “The Scorpions”.

The Scorpions were deemed by those riding the waves of the Zunami as being nothing more than an oppressive tool in the hands of one allegedly aloof and clearly out-of-touch man who now has a new career as a famous Facebook writer. In a long process punctuated by court cases and public protests, the Scorpions were disbanded in January of 2009 and the ominous threat that they posed was neutralised. They were replaced by the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), commonly referred to as the “Hawks”. The Hawks were initially headed up by Anwar Dramat who had made a name for himself fighting organised crime and gangsterism in the Cape. Dramat has since exited the Hawks after allegations that he was involved in the illegal rendition of Zimbabwean nationals, some of whom were reportedly executed by the Zimbabwean police after being handed over by the South Africans. He also had many battles with his superiors and is currently facing charges of kidnapping, defeating the ends of justice, illegal deportation in terms of the Immigration Act.

It gets worse. The current Hawks National Head, Lieutenant-General Berning Ntlemeza has previously slammed by Judge Elias Matojane of the Pretoria High Court who described him as lacking integrity and honour. In Gauteng, Major-General Shadrack Sibiya, who had been the provincial head of the Hawks, was fired in September 2015 after his involvement in the illegal renditions was brought to light. In Limpopo, Major General Dibero Mina Molatjana, also provincial head in her province, was found guilty of fraud in October 2015. She requested her secretary to register her sister as a dependent on the secretary’s medical aid scheme. She was found to have also issued instructions to subordinates to use state-owned vehicles transport her son from Polokwane to Pretoria, where he was studying. In KZN , the suspended Hawks head, General Johan Booysen has recently seen racketeering charges from 2012 being resuscitated after he had successfully fought a series of disciplinary hearings and had managed to have the criminal charges withdrawn.

There seems to be a great number of festering sores hidden behind the clever manipulation of crime statistics that we have grown accustomed to. The police seem to have taken a leaf from the books of education officials, who, in the attempt to massage Matric Pass rates, create a bottleneck at Grade 10 and 11 to hold back the weak students who might embarrass the education department with their poor marks. For example, when an inturder trespasses onto your property and breaks a window in their attempt to gain unlawful entry, you can be discouraged from opening a case because “they didn’t take anything” or “it’s only a window”. At the end of that reporting period, “improved” crime statistics will be announced.

The problems in the police service go far beyond those frustrating arguments we have with officers who actively discourage turning complaints into recorded cases and many other problems we encounter when dealing with the police. We spend much time debating and analysing the conduct and (in)action of the police on the ground who serve in the police stations in our neighbourhoods. We have seen many pictures officers asleep while on duty, officers using state vehicles to go grocery shopping and other “funny” examples of the current malaise in the SAPS. Perhaps it is time we adjust our focus to those who occupy the highest offices in the police hierarchy, they seem to require more scrutiny and concern.

Maybe the best solution is a return to the “Hollywood approach” of the Scorpions, maybe it isn’t. Whatever it is, something needs to be done about the leadership of the specialised units within the police service. It might be time that this “unintended consequence” of a revolution past is dealt with. For how much longer will we ignore the violence that this fish is doing to our nasal cavities?

*Akani writes in his personal capacity

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