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WHAT a farce the whole Richard Mdluli saga has become. Demoted from his post as the head of crime intelligence two weeks ago by acting national police commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, he was suspended on May 26. Then the suspension was lifted by the Johannesburg Labour Court at the weekend. But by Sunday he was suspended again after the SA Police Service brought an urgent application to have the Friday order set aside.
While all these dramas are playing out, the work of the police cannot but be affected.
It is that concern which has prompted the Social Justice Coalition to apply, with Corruption Watch, for leave to intervene in an application by Freedom under Law to have the National Prosecuting Authority reinstate the charges against Mdluli which were controversially dropped some time ago.
The organisation is concerned that collusion in the cover-up of Mdluli’s alleged crimes of murder and corruption undermines the fight against crime.
“The failure of the SAPS and NPA to act effectively and transparently against those accused of serious offences creates a climate in which the public loses confidence in our security services and justice system, and in our constitution”, says the SJC in its application to the North Gauteng High Court.
The high level of crime and the breakdown in the relationship between residents and the police, notably in Khayelitsha where the SJC is based, does not of course date from the appointment of Mdluli.
In 2011, with four other organisations, the SJC filed a formal complaint against the SAPS and the City of Cape Town’s metropolitan police department. Since then the coalition has also asked Premier Helen Zille to appoint a judicial commission of inquiry to investigate the failure of the police service and the criminal justice system in Khayelitsha.
But the danger now is that the crisis at the top of the police force will add a potentially lethal ingredient to what is already a very toxic mix.
In Khayelitsha, scepticism about the police’s ability to protect residents has prompted a surge of vigilante attacks, with eight people dead in just three weeks.
Bringing Mdluli to justice is a necessary, though not a sufficient, condition to restoring public faith in the criminal justice system.