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THE SAPS and the police ministry are maintaining radio silence over whether controversial crime intelligence boss Richard Mdluli is in the process of being suspended.
However, the Saturday Star understands an official notice to provide reasons why he should not be suspended – the first step towards suspension according to SAPS protocol – was indeed issued, even if it’s not clear whether it has been successfully served on Mdluli.
In yet another twist in the storm around Mdluli, the SABC reported yesterday that he denied having received any notice of such a move: “No, I’m currently off sick and I’m busy attending a doctor with emotional stress,” he told the public broadcaster.
A similar notice was also served on the police’s secret services’ Major-General Solly Lazarus, who, like Mdluli has seven days to provide reasons why he should stay in his job.
This development came a day after rights lobby Freedom Under Law asked the Pretoria High Court to order the suspension of Mdluli because there had been, in the handling of the matter, “an extraordinary degree of lack of accountability and a breach of the culture of justification under the constitution which our courts have sought to impress on those who exercise public power”.
Analysts and the DA welcomed the move to suspend Mdluli, even if it was too little too late.
However, Gareth Newham of the Institute for Security Studies said the police “have a duty to talk about what they are doing” rather than staying silent.
“We really do need a situation where the leadership of the SAPS speaks to the public,” Newham said. “The allegations (against Mdluli) are so serious, if they are true. You can’t have someone accused of murder and corruption in the police.”
DA police spokeswoman Dianne Kohler Barnard maintained Mdluli and Lazarus should be suspended with immediate effect.
The move to suspend Mdluli is understood to have come from acting national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, a week after Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa announced Mdluli would be shifted sideways while a ministerial task team’s investigation into his claims of a conspiracy against him was under way.
However, Mkhwanazi’s spokesman, Brigadier Lindela Mashigo, declined to confirm or deny yesterday that a notice had been given to Mdluli.
Police ministerial spokesman Zweli Mnisi said there would be no comment as other processes were in place to deal with the matter.
However, there was concern about the impact it had had on the focus on the fight against crime and public confidence in policing. “It would be naive for us to say we are not worried. That’s why we put processes in place,” Mnisi added.
Regardless of the very public storm around Mdluli, who since his return to work at the end of March has not stayed out of the headlines, the matter did not feature on the ANC national executive committee agenda for this weekend.
ANC national spokesman Jackson Mthembu said this was a regular meeting, which takes place every two months, and would not deal with current affairs.
A sideshow of other related claims is also playing out, including intimidation of those who decided to co-operate with probes into Mdluli’s affairs, attempts to sway Parliament’s intelligence committee chairman Cecil Burgess, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, and the payment of journalists to write favourable articles or drop critical ones.
The SA National Editors’ Forum has written to Mkhwanazi asking for further details of payments allegedly made to an unnamed Sunday Times journalist.