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Johannesburg - Major-General Bethuel Mondli Zuma - who was appointed as Gauteng police commissioner for less than two hours - has a criminal record.
Today, The Star can reveal that not only is Zuma facing charges of drunk driving, escaping lawful custody and defeating the ends of justice in Pietermaritzburg in 2008, he also has a conviction relating to a reckless and negligent driving incident in 2004 in Akasia, Tshwane.
Zuma paid a fine of R500 in relation to that incident, making him one of thousands of police officers still in the service with a criminal record.
Last month, national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega was left with egg on her face when she had to withdraw Zuma’s appointment as Gauteng police commissioner, just hours after appointing him, when it emerged there was a criminal investigation pending against him.
The pending charges relate to an incident in Pietermaritzburg in 2008 in which Zuma is accused of escaping from lawful custody, driving under the influence of alcohol and defeating the ends of justice.
Zuma made a brief appearance in the Pietermaritzburg Magistrate’s Court in connection with those charges on Tuesday. The case was postponed to Wednesday.
After the withdrawal of Zuma’s appointment, Phiyega’s office claimed she had followed all the necessary steps when appointing him.
At the time, national police spokesman Lieutenant-General Solomon Makgale said Zuma had no criminal record and there were no departmental investigations pending against him.
Now, Zuma’s appointment has been permanently withdrawn, and he faces disciplinary steps for failing to declare the pending criminal charges.
When The Star contacted Zuma for comment on Tuesday, all he was prepared to say was that Makgale was aware of his conviction.
“Please speak to Solomon. He is the only person who is allowed to make a comment about that matter,” said a soft-spoken Zuma.
Makgale declined to comment on Tuesday.
When DA police spokeswoman Dianne Kohler Barnard learnt of Zuma’s conviction, she said she was shocked.
“Oh my God, I don’t know what to say. I’m just so shocked. This tells me she (Phiyega) did not do background checks. It took me only 10 minutes just to do basic checks.
“I truly believe that Phiyega is taking political orders from Minister of Police Nathi Mthethwa. Why else would the national commissioner keep on appointing criminals?
“She appointed as Free State police commissioner Lieutenant-General Simon Mpembe, who bought a brand-new white BMW X5 and had it resprayed black for official duties at a cost of thousands to the SAPS.
“She should have known that Zuma had a criminal record. She is totally out of her depth and should go.
“Is it not bad enough that he is facing criminal investigation?” asked a surprised Kohler Barnard.
Zuma is among thousands of police officers who have criminal records.
Mthethwa revealed in July that an audit had shown that the SAPS had 1 448 members with criminal convictions for crimes including murder, rape, robbery, theft and corruption.
Police officers with criminal records include a major-general, 10 brigadiers, 21 colonels, 10 majors, 43 lieutenant-colonels, 163 captains and 84 lieutenants.
Dr Johan Burger, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies, slammed Phiyega for failing to follow internal procedures and advertise the position so that Zuma would go through evaluation processes. He said the process normally lasts two days.
“They would have been able to pick up all these little things that are coming back to haunt her (Phiyega). This is what will happen if you don’t follow your policy,” said Burger.
“I’m just curious to know how the national commissioner is going to explain this one,” added a laughing Burger.