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MAJOR-generals in the SAPS head offices could find themselves chasing criminals if newly appointed national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega heeds a call by police union Popcru.
The union has asked Phiyega to redeploy the major-generals to police stations across the country.
National police spokeswoman Major-General Nonkululeko Mbatha said yesterday the national commissioner would not take a decision in a vacuum, but would have to make an informed one.
Mbatha said they had acknowledged the inputs by the South African Policing Union (Sapu) and the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru).
It is understood that Phiyega is considering the proposal, but Independent Newspapers has not been able to independently confirm this.
Popcru deputy general secretary Lebogang Phepheng said they had made a presentation to Parliament’s portfolio committee regarding the plan.
In March last year, there were 129 major-generals in units, provinces, branches and police stations, he noted. The number could have increased by now.
Phepheng said that instead of doing paperwork or “operating as a post office”, the senior officials could be doing useful work at police stations.
Institute for Security Studies director and senior crime researcher Dr Johan Burger said deploying major-generals could be an advantage to the police stations, especially those experiencing problems.
The police structure was top-heavy. Trimming it down and placing major-generals at cluster levels and police stations could help to beef up the fight against crime as they would contribute their expertise and experience, he said.
Sapu general secretary Oscar Skommere echoed these sentiments, saying the SAPS structure at head office needed to be trimmed down. There was no need for the SAPS to have five deputy national commissioners, he said.
“The work of the police is more on the ground. We are saying the number must be reduced at the head office,” Skommere said.
Senior officials could guide junior police officers working at police stations and cluster levels, he said.
More experienced officials such as major-generals could be used to empower police stations and to strengthen clusters.
If Phiyega agreed to the unions’ proposal, it would be her second bold move since taking office.
Last week, Phiyega halted interviews for 128 positions within the crime intelligence division.
However, Mbatha said there was nothing untoward about the postponement of the interviews. “She still needs to be briefed on the crime intelligence structure.”
The Sunday Times reported at the weekend that Phiyega was to rope in the Hawks to investigate a R1.6 billion contract awarded by the SAPS.
The top cop wants a thorough probe of multimillion-rand tenders for hi-tech systems.
The three-year IT contract for a property control exit management system was awarded to Unisys Africa (Pty) Ltd.
It has since emerged that the contract did not include the cost of hardware, consumables and the processing of exhibits, which will cost an extra R800 million.
Popcru’s Phepheng said there were more people at head office than in five of the provinces – Limpopo, Free State, Mpumalanga, North West and Northern Cape.
The high number of people at head office was holding up service delivery and was a breeding ground for infighting, Phepheng said. More resources should be pumped into police stations.
He cited the recent example of Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa shifting suspended crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli to another division to allow conspiracy investigations against him to go on unhindered.
Yesterday, the Johannesburg Labour Court blocked Mdluli’s bid to overturn his suspension. Mdluli was challenging his suspension by former acting national commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi. The SAPS welcomed the court decision.
Phepheng said the SAPS could hire 10 constables for the salary of one major-general. A major-general earned about R1.2 million a year, excluding medical aid benefits, a housing allowance and other perks.
A major-general also has a driver and a secretary.
Phepheng said Popcru had requested a meeting with Phiyega during which it would raise the matter formally.
Asked how confident the union was that Phiyega would consider the proposal, Phepheng said: “She said in parliament she will welcome proposals from everyone who wants to make a contribution to the SAPS and test it.”
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