Top cops ordered into line

The Star


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The new National Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega smiles holds her first press conference after occupying the hot seat at the police academy in Pretoria.
140612. Picture: Bongiwe MchunuSource of irritation: Former acting top cop Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi

NEWLY appointed national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega has stopped the appointment of major-generals to command crime intelligence operations in six provinces.

Phiyega, a career administrator appointed as SA’s first female national commissioner last week, stopped the process in its tracks this week, even though five candidates had been flown to Pretoria to attend official interviews for the vacant positions in Limpopo, the Northern Cape, North West, Eastern Cape, Free State and Gauteng. The positions were advertised earlier this year.

The positions, which carry a salary of between R887 000 and R910 000 a year, have now been frozen until further notice.

The Star understands that Phiyega stepped in once the interviews got under way on Tuesday to instruct former acting top cop Major-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi – the source of the new police chief’s irritation – and acting crime intelligence divisional commissioner Fannie Masemola, who was chair of the interview panel, to cancel the entire process until she had been properly briefed.

Mkhwanazi confirmed last night that the interviews had been cancelled on Phiyega’s instruction. He said he had informed her on Monday – when she officially started her new job – about the posts that had been advertised and the interviews.

“She requested that they will be put on hold until she understands crime intelligence, which is understandable,” Mkhwanazi said.

However, he said the candidates had already travelled to Pretoria for the interviews. The candidates were duly informed that the interviews had been cancelled and told to return home until further notice.

Sources, who wanted to remain anonymous, told The Star that the national commissioner had reportedly seen the process as senior police management’s defiance of her, especially as the entire crime intelligence division has been under the spotlight recently.

Former crime intelligence boss Lieutenant-General Richard Mdluli is under suspension in the wake of allegations the he looted the division’s secret slush fund for informers to pay his wife, mistresses and relatives’ salaries, put them up in safe houses and gave them cars.

Mdluli, who is challenging his suspension by Mkhwanazi in the Labour Court, was due to return to the same court today.

A week ago, The Star revealed how Mkhwanazi himself had come under fire for ordering that part of the unspent crime intelligence budget be redirected to buy 149 cars for other police units.

This was days before President Jacob Zuma appointed Phiyega as the new police chief.

DA spokeswoman Dianne Kohler Barnard said: “She (Phiyega) is most certainly right to cancel the interviews. This is a sign of defiance. If she had given an instruction for the interviews to be put on hold, why go ahead with them?

“They must know she is the boss. I will not sit back and watch members of SAPS undermine her.”

Yesterday, Phiyega said she was sobered when she appeared in front of Parliament’s police oversight committee to hear that a R1.6 billion police tender for communication equipment was bungled.

SAPS top brass faced the wrath of MPs yesterday when they told the committee that not only had the cost of setting up the system in the Eastern Cape been exorbitant – R920 million for the basic system alone – but it was still rising as the system had not yet been fully installed.

The SAPS concluded contracts for the digital communications system in two provinces without including maintenance in the deals.

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