Speculation is rife that National Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele has been fired but the Presidency has not confirmed or denied this. Do you think the president will follow through and fire Cele despite reports that the general is a political heavyweight?
I can only speculate. I think there is tremendous pressure on President Jacob Zuma to dismiss the suspended national commissioner. Yes, there are political considerations, with the ANC conference coming up in Mangaung, but from my assessment of the situation Zuma already has support from the Kwazulu-Natal bloc, where Cele hails from.
I would not be surprised if Cele was dismissed and then ended up in another plum position elsewhere, for instance as an ambassador. This is common in ANC circles (redeploying tainted individuals). The Presidency may also have to consider the possibility of a court challenge and whether the damning report against Cele would hold up in court if it were used as a basis for dismissing him.
Police on the ground held Cele in high esteem. Do you think his suspension and subsequent investigation into his fitness to hold office has affected morale on the ground? If he is ultimately fired do you think that will have a further effect on morale?
My sense is that the morale in the police is at an all-time low at the moment (Cele, Mdluli, the slush fund issues, corruption etc). This has been going on for some time and my feeling is that most people in the South African Police Service are tired of the negative attention.
I don't think that the Cele inquiry triggered the crisis in the police. It was just part of a long course of events dating back to the days of former national commissioner Jackie Selebi. In the long term what will result in better morale in the SAPS is the appointment of a career police officer who has a robust grasp of policing in the country. The president has a constitutional and patriotic duty to ensure that the next appointment is not a political one. Most of the political appointees to the headship of the police have been people with limited, "real" police experience.
A quick look at the organogram of the police at the higher levels will show that there are several senior career police officers that are competent to take on the role of the national commissioner. The president can tap from this pool of talent to make an appointment. My sense is that such an appointment would definitely have the confidence of the police service and the country, and would go a long way in addressing the crisis that exists in the present conjuncture.
It has emerged that acting national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi has authorized expenditure totaling R35 million for the purchase of luxury cars from the secret slush fund. Does this come as a shock considering he was hailed as a hero who would save the police?
These are indeed unfortunate allegations but we should not be too hasty to judge the acting police commissioner. I think we need to acquire a full sense of what transpired. We also need to be careful as these may be allegations generated to taint his character. I think the lieutenant general has demonstrated that he is his own man and is not willing to buckle to pressure from the political elites. This has not made him popular. However, this does not excuse him from improper conduct, but it is possible that these allegations may have been generated by some of his foes.
What would your comment be on what has transpired with suspended Police Crime Intelligence head Richard Mdluli in the past week?
I think the Richard Mdluli debacle is a succinct reflection of political interference in the police but also hypocrisy of the part of our leaders. For the citizens of South Africa and the international community to have confidence in our police and other institutions the rule of law has to prevail.
The allegations against Mdluli are very serious and it seems to me there is prima facie evidence that he has a case to answer. This evidence needs to be tested in a court of law, before a judge, to determine its validity.
Further, the Mdluli case demonstrates political interference in the National Prosecuting Authority and it is shocking that allegations and charges concerning powerful individuals are dealt with in a very nebulous way and these individuals are treated in a "special" manner.
I doubt that any other ordinary South African would get the preferential treatment and political protection that Mdluli seems to be enjoying.
Given Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa has also been implicated in misuse of the secret slush fund, how hopeless is the situation police department currently?
The current crisis presents a pivotal opportunity for the country's political leaders to demonstrate that they are serious about tackling police corruption; strengthening the SAPS and other institutions; entrenching the rule of law; and appointing competent individuals with integrity to key positions in the country's institutions such at the police.
As a country we need to chart a new course and say that we have had enough of corrupt individuals. At the same time we also need to guard against allegations in the media and in other circles against specific individuals and politicians. In the case of the minister of police there needs to be a transparent investigation or a commission of inquiry to ascertain if the allegations indeed hold merit. My sense though is that given the secretive nature in which slush funds operate, it may be difficult to pin down the details, but someone has to try and figure out if indeed abuse and misuse did occur.