The “war” raging between senior police managers is the perfect example of why the Hawks should not be located in the SAPS but be granted the independence to tackle complex or sensitive investigations without fear or favour, former DA MP Raenette Taljaard has said.
Parliament’s police committee is working on amendments to the SAPS Act after the Constitutional Court found last year that the Hawks were not independent enough to protect them against political interference.
Taljaard told the Cape Town Press Club that the UN anti-corruption convention – which SA has signed – “clearly requires an independent anti-corruption watchdog”.
“I would assume that this issue of independence would inevitably mean that you cannot (keep) the Hawks within the SAPS in the way that is being contemplated (by Parliament),” she said on Thursday.
African Christian Democratic Party leader Kenneth Meshoe called on President Jacob Zuma to “intervene in this ‘war’ to stop senior police officers from attacking each other in public”.
The conflict between securocrats was “undermining the credibility of the SAPS and threatening national security”, he said.
“President Zuma must support (acting national police commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi), failing which the perception will be created that he is protecting (crime intelligence boss Richard) Mdluli as his preferred choice as national commissioner.”
Meshoe’s call follows the extraordinary statement by Mkhwanazi this week that he feared widespread panic in the service “as senior officers tear each other apart in war”.
“It is war. I am cleaning house and will not stop until all the bad apples, regardless of who they are, are removed once and for all,” Mkhwanazi told The Times on Wednesday.
“If someone is involved in something – be it stealing from slush funds or abusing police resources, and lies about it – those lies will one day catch up with you. I will prove that there are people strategically operating like a mafia and I will deal with these people. I will ensure that justice is delivered.”
Mkhwanazi’s statement was the frankest admission yet by a senior officer of the turf wars plaguing the state security establishment.
It has been interpreted as referring to crime intelligence boss Mdluli, who has been accused, following an internal police investigation, of abusing the police’s secret service account for his and his family’s benefit.
Mkhwanazi told the National Assembly’s police oversight committee two weeks ago that Mdluli remained the subject of an internal departmental inquiry despite his controversial reinstatement in February after fraud and corruption charges against him were dropped without explanation.
Mdluli’s alleged abuse of the secret service account is also the subject of an investigation by the Intelligence Inspector General, Faith Radebe. Public Protector Thuli Madonsela has said she will not investigate the allegations until Radebe has concluded her probe.
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has asked Auditor-General Terence Nombembe to look into allegations that money from the slush fund was used for renovations to his private home in KwaZulu-Natal. He has denied benefiting in any way from the fund.
Mkhwanazi is also under scrutiny by Madonsela after several police officers said he had told them he had seen an unarmed suspect being shot dead but had failed to report this. He has denied this and vowed to take his accusers to court.
The Constitutional Court gave Parliament 18 months to pass new legislation giving the Hawks the necessary independence.
While almost all the public submissions to the committee have argued for the Hawks no longer to fall under the SAPS, the committee – chaired by ANC MP Sindi Chikunga – appears set to support the status quo, keeping the Hawks under the authority of the SAPS.
The society’s co-chairman, Krish Govender, said the statement “flowed from” allegations by Glynnis Breytenbach, the suspended Gauteng head of the NPA’s commercial crimes unit, that shots had been fired at her car and later attempts made by two motorcyclists to force it off the road.
Breytenbach led the criminal investigation into Mdluli – and had pushed for charges against him to be reinstated.
Govender emphasised that the society condemned any attacks on members of the justice system.
“Members of the legal profession… should be able to carry out their professional duties without fear of intimidation or harm,” he said.
“If left unresolved or unchallenged, such attacks could lead to a climate of lawlessness where the judiciary and other stakeholders in the legal and security arena will not be able to carry out their functions fearlessly, without favour and independently. This will ultimately send us down the slippery slope towards the disintegration of our constitutional democracy.”
Breytenbach was suspended on Monday pending an internal probe into her handling of a case involving alleged fraud by a mining company. Some circles have suggested there are links between this and the physical threats to her safety and her dogged pursuit of the criminal case against Mdluli.