With fresh memories of police inaction during the July violence and looting, the possible suspension of National SAPS Commissioner Khehla Sitole raises further concerns about election-related security issues. If the suspension goes ahead, it will be unlikely to impact on imminent elections, but the longer-term consequences are potentially serious.
Sitole’s appointment has seen a perceptible improvement in accountability, with many police charged with serious fraud, and some dismissed. The politicisation of policing, which escalated after Jacob Zuma became president, lies at the heart of the problems, with grossly irregular interference in operational matters by the minister of police dividing loyalties and hampering the fight against crime.
The public has little control over the elected executive, but, with greater participation in policing issues, it could play an important role in exposing incompetence, corruption and criminality in local-level policing.
Minister Bheki Cele is to blame for the leadership crisis, as he wants Sitole, who is an impediment to his exercising total control over policing, removed. The pretext is a flimsy one, resting on a judgment in a 2018 court case delivered almost three years after its inception, relating to the failure of he SAPS to hand over classified procurement documentation to the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) (which had problems of its own).
Sitole was one of the four applicants, one of whom – the kingpin in this matter – was Bo Mbindwane, the adviser/representative of former police minister Fikile Mbalula. One of the procurements happened almost a year before Sitole’s November 2017 appointment; the second was the attempted procurement of a “grabber” (electronic interception spyware) just after his appointment.
The judge found in favour of Ipid, but said Sitole’s role might have been confined to classifying documents. Why Sitole would have classified documents from a year before his appointment is not interrogated.
Given the shocking lack of discipline and loyalty, the slow progress by the national commissioner is understandable. That police members dealing with political violence cases, and crime intelligence, are reporting directly to Cele is in breach of the SAPS Act and has a serious impact on the fight against violent crime. Appointments to ministerial positions depend on politics, not on probity or capability, and Cele seems to call the presidential shots. If he succeeds in removing Sitole during an inquiry, he will have no one to block his dangerous meddling.
It is crucial that non-political community members of standing engage with policing at their stations, through joining CPFs, or assisting with patrols or reservist activities.
Independent monitoring, and documenting with factual information, local level policing is important, as is providing a support system for members striving to do their best. A broader based network could assist local groups when there are overwhelming problems as, for example, following up serious cases such as murder. Security through policing is far too important to be left to politicians.
In other news – Idols SA top 6 impresses Mzansi
Idols SA is coming to an end, as the top 6 performed two songs each Sunday nights, 17 October episode.
This week, the double performances debuted and the top 6 gave it their all. It was a sad day for Sia Mzizi who was eliminated. Learn more