537 Richard Mdluli is seen siting with an unknown friend at the Botshabelo stadium in the Free State during the May Day celebrations. 010512. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

The farcical saga around the suspension of head of crime intelligence Richard Mdluli has seriously affected morale within the SAPS and dented its public image, says Gareth Newham, head of crime and policing at the Institute for Security Studies.

On Monday, the Johannesburg Labour Court again reserved judgment on Mdluli’s application to have his suspension revoked.

Judge Andre van Niekerk said he could not make a ruling until the Pretoria High Court had passed judgment on Mdluli’s application for leave to appeal against an interim order interdicting him from working as a police officer.

The interim order application to strip Mdluli of his powers, pending the outcome of corruption and criminal charges against him, was brought by constitutional lobby group Freedom Under Law (FUL).

Judge Van Niekerk said that while the Labour Court had jurisdiction equal to that of the High Court, it could not grant any order that would “stand in conflict” with the Pretoria High Court’s order.

“Although the order is interim, it effectively precludes (Mdluli) from reporting for duty and performing his functions… This court ought not to make an order which undermines the order of another court with the same or similar status and competence,” he said.

Judge Van Niekerk said Mdluli’s suspension could become a long and protracted process. This, he said, was because whatever the Pretoria High Court’s ruling, Mdluli’s appeal could be challenged by him or FUL in the Supreme Court of Appeal.

“In my view, the appropriate order to make is one that permits the merits of the application to be determined once there is finality in relation to the future (of the High Court’s) order.”

Mdluli faces corruption charges for the alleged mismanagement of the police’s secret account and criminal charges relating to the murder of his former girlfriend’s husband. He was suspended on May 15, according to the SAPS.

Mdluli claims that the suspension was unfair and unlawful as he was not personally served with the notice of his suspension.

He further claims that he learnt of the suspension through the media on May 25.

Newham said the shoddy way in which Mdluli’s suspension was done had severely tainted the police’s public image and “worsened morality” within the SAPS.

“There has been a lot of political interference.

“As soon as certain police officers are promoted or appointed to senior positions and treated differently outside of regulations for political reasons, it fundamentally undermines the ability of the police service to be professional.

“That is a massive problem for the SAPS.”

Newham warned SA to wake up to the reality that countries with very little or no inappropriate political interference were more likely to have a professional and efficient police service.

“Unfortunately, these lessons haven’t been learnt. If learnt, we would have a full judicial commission enquiry to look into allegations of political interference and corruption at the higher level.”

At best, he added, the government should implement the National Planning Commission’s recommendation of an independent panel of police experts to interview candidates for high-ranking police positions.

“The National Planning Commission set clear and vigorous guidelines for the appointment of divisional commander.

“Unfortunately it was ignored… It has worsened morale.”

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The Star