The best of South African literature
The leadership crisis in the police is worrying and will definitely affect the public’s confidence in the force, says Moshoeshoe Monare.
Johannesburg - The leadership crisis in the police is worrying and will definitely affect the public’s confidence in the force. The factional battles will also dampen the morale of the dedicated men and women in blue and boost the agenda of the incompetent, corrupt members.
The country is terrorised by criminals and the statistics show that violent crime – which has a chilling effect on the national psyche – is on the rise.
National Commissioner Riah Phiyega had decided to restructure her management to make it efficient. She should be applauded for this, considering how bloated and ineffective the top structure was.
However, her decisions and recent developments show that Phiyega – who was plucked from the corporate world – seems to have been sucked into the toxic subculture of the police. Three of the five national police commissioners appointed after 1994 were from outside the police system.
When Jackie Selebi was taken from Foreign Affairs to lead the police, the rationale behind the appointment was that he was competent and efficient as the country’s top diplomat. It was hoped he would turn around the SAPS quickly.
Secondly, former president Thabo Mbeki thought Selebi wouldn’t be subsumed by the poisonous police subculture of back-stabbing, conspiracies and factional battles.
The opposite happened. He was not only sucked into this subculture, he perfected it.
Then along came the colourful and energetic Bheki Cele. President Jacob Zuma, who was paranoid of Mbeki’s security institutions, brought in Cele as an outsider to smash any factional opponents from the Mbeki era.
Cele was an effective crime buster (crime statistics stabilised under his leadership) and was a public relations wizard who took the propaganda war to the criminals. He also became caught up in the internal factional battles, which destabilised the SAPS leadership.
Even though he was brought down by his involvement in the controversial leasing saga, factional fights were weakening his leadership.
Enter Phiyega. She inherited an unstable management and a demoralised force. This resulted in her hopping from one crisis to the next.
She is also fighting several battles on different fronts – from Marikana, her thoughtless appointment of Mondli Zuma, to the recent serious allegations against her.
She is accused of defeating the ends of justice by tipping off a corrupt cop of his imminent arrest.
According to The Star, she was informed by crime intelligence of the impending arrest after the unit intercepted some of the top officer’s cellphone conversations.
The officer was apparently on the payroll of a drug lord. It is also alleged this was the reason Phiyega suspended acting crime intelligence boss Chris Ngcobo.
Ngcobo is sulking – and given the subculture in the police – is capable of saying anything to pounce back at the commissioner.
But if Ngcobo is correct, Phiyega must quit and be escorted from her office straight to the police cells.
What she did – if it is true (she is denying it) – is a criminal offence, the worst one for a police commissioner. If it is not true, the whole saga again exposes the depth and scope of the factional subculture corroding the police.
* Moshoeshoe Monare is editor of the Sunday Independent.
** The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Independent Newspapers