New head speaks on metro police’s key priorities

Newly appointed commissioner of the eThekwini metro police, Sibonelo Mchunu. Photo supplied

Newly appointed commissioner of the eThekwini metro police, Sibonelo Mchunu. Photo supplied

Published Mar 7, 2024


Newly appointed commissioner of the eThekwini metro police Sibonelo Mchunu says ensuring discipline among his members will be one of his top priorities as he assumes responsibility for the unit.

Mchunu said it was essential that members of the metro police are above reproach. After months of acting in the post, Mchunu was finally announced as the head of metro police last week.

He succeeded his friend and mentor, Steve Middleton, who retired more than a year ago.

Speaking to “The Mercury” recently, Mchunu said he was grateful for the opportunity.

His ascendancy has been fraught with challenges. He has faced allegations of wrongdoing, and there were attempts to challenge his appointment as deputy commissioner, which failed.

“I feel humbled and honoured having been chosen by the full council with no objection to assume this huge responsibility. I am ready,” said Mchunu. “The mayor, Mxolisi Kaunda, the former commissioner (Middleton) and myself had been engaged in serious plans to turn things around, including (adding) the use of technology and other modern methods of policing.

“We are in a drive to recruit more police – 400 are going to start in April and immediately after we will put an advert for another 400 new recruits.”

The council recently approved new modern crime-fighting equipment for the unit, including body-worn cameras.

He said the objective was to have a force of 5000 or more members by 2026.

“The main weakness of the unit has been manpower. People are resigning, are dying, are retiring – that has an impact on the manpower. Since 2000 when the unit was established, it has not reached its target of people on the ground, it has always been below.”

He said another challenge was the shortage of funds.

“There has not been a commitment of capital budget especially on the policing aspect. Most of it has been on the operating budget. We now intend to build more stations, renovate those that are old to ensure they meet the standard of modern police.”

Mchunu said another weakness in the unit was discipline.

“For some time I think the issue of discipline among members has lapsed.

Myself and my deputies need to ensure that we instil discipline, and we urge our members to maintain the discipline.”

He said he was concerned about issues of misconduct, including abuse of firearms, abusing alcohol while at work, taking bribes, theft and getting involved in issues of domestic violence, and in some instances, using excessive force.

“The police officer has the authority to get into the (private lives) of citizens and they need to be highly trusted. We need to have a contingent of people that we can trust, that you would have not problem in entering your house when we are not there.

We need to address the issue of petty (crime).”

Speaking on metro police being used as bodyguards for councillors, he said the issue of protection was now the responsibility of the unit and they will be able to budget for it as opposed to how it operated before.

Mchunu’s appointment has been welcomed by opposition parties.

ActionSA councillor Alan Beesley said: “Under the ANC-led municipality, eThekwini policing has become virtually non-existent with crime, traffic and by-law violations continuing to increase. It is crucial that Mr Mchunu is up to the task and that the metro police are given sufficient resources for proper policing to be done.

IFP councillor Mdu Nkosi said. “We expect him to work very hard and be transparent so people paying rates gain confidence in the metro police.”

DA councillor Thabani Mthethwa said: “We expect him to prioritise crime fighting and law enforcement.

It is, however, disappointing that a few days after his appointment metro police are nowhere to be seen during the ongoing violent strike.”

The Mercury