Nhleko plans to transform SAPS

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko. File photo: Masi Losi

Police Minister Nathi Nhleko. File photo: Masi Losi

Published Sep 3, 2015


Cape Town - Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko is grabbing the opportunity offered by the Marikana commission recommendations on improving public order policing to initiate wide-ranging transformation across the police.

This emerged in Wednesday’s parliamentary police committee, where the minister told MPs the commission recommendations were an “extraordinary and timely opportunity” to drive the broader transformation of the police, improve accountability and transparency and establish professional ethics.

Nhleko acknowledged transforming the police would be “a monumental task”, later adding: “We did not do what should have been done early in our democracy”. The transformation processes were expected to take between three and five years.

“The question of transformation is an ongoing project… There were issues of representivity, which needed to be dealt with. That was the first phase… In so far as (police) ethics, have we really transformed? Is the institution aligned with the constitution? Is the institution aligned with human rights?” Nhleko told journalists after addressing the committee. “There are aspects at a cosmetic level we have dealt with, but there are issues about institutional and people matters that need to be dealt with.”

There will be two related transformation-focused processes: one, a transformation task team under the auspices of Deputy Police Minister Maggie Sotyu, which also includes the national police commissioner, senior police officers and a group of local and international experts; the second, the panel of experts as recommended by the Marikana Commission to be led by a retired judge.

Independent Media has seen the panel’s terms of reference, which were not shared with MPs during the open committee meeting. While these terms of reference significantly focus on improving public order policing through, among other, the use of non-lethal weapons, first aid training and management skilling, they also tackle transformation and how to improve developing legislation, strategy and policy.

Thus the panel of experts must:

- Review the state of transformation in the police and develop a transformation framework.

- Review the level of available suitable skills across the police.

- Recommend to the minister training programmes and approaches to professionalise the police.

- Review the extent of the “militaristic nature” of the police, contextualise and define demilitarisation and recommend best practice “to address the problem” to the minister.

- Review the role, regulations, procedures and capacity of the police watchdog, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid), and advise the minister on best practice on how to close any gaps.

The time frame for the panel to finish its work is 15 months, including a three-month report writing period. However, the panel, like the transformation task team, has yet to get under way, although this was regarded as “urgent”. While the president must appoint the retired judge to head the panel of experts, Nhleko told MPs he was engaging various policing experts to serve on both the panel and transformation task team.

“This is an urgent matter, extremely so…,” Nhleko said without giving time frames.

However, he did indicate the transformation processes could cost as much as 1 percent of the police budget, or around R770 million. While discussions are under way with National Treasury, Nhleko also said some of the money would be found by reprioritising items in the police budget.

The nature of an untransformed police was raised by ANC MP Leonard Ramatlakane, in reference to provincial police top brass who face an unprecedented Rule 201 investigation into their behaviour and truthfulness in recent interactions with MPs – and their entry into politicking by backing their embattled boss General Riah Phiyega.

This investigation arose after MPs across the political party lines took a dim view of the provincial police commissioners’ public support of Phiyega, a day after she informed President Jacob Zuma why she should keep her job. This came after the Marikana Commission recommended she face an inquiry into her fitness for office.

In that public statement of August 1, the provincial police commissioners also aligned themselves with her testimony to the commission initiated after the August 2012 police killing of 34 Marikana miners and 10 other people, including two police officers and two Lonmin security guards, in the preceding week.

Phiyega is now facing suspension following Zuma’s decision to establish a board of inquiry. While the provincial top brass apologised for their politicking, they did not withdraw the controversial statement as ordered by the police committee.

On Wednesday Ramatlakane told Nhleko he had “experienced a strange culture” in a democracy by police top management before the committee where the officers “demonstrated a foreign culture of behaviour that demonstrated that they are not answerable to the South African Parliament”.

The minister’s police transformation initiatives are in line with the policing white paper, a firm policy document and the basis for legislation and regulation.

The policing white paper is based on the National Development Plan (NDP), South Africa’s plan to reduce poverty and inequality by 2030, which states South Africa’s single police service should be professionalised, demilitarised and that the national and provincial police commissioners should be appointed on objective criteria in a competitive process chaired by a selection panel.

The constitution allows the president to appoint the national police commission.

Nhleko and Phiyega have not seen eye to eye over the NDP’s stipulation for a professional and demilitarised police. In a police committee meeting shortly after the May 2014 elections, both differed on what professionalisation and demilitarisation meant: Nhleko emphasised the need for a professional police service, while Phiyega raised questions of what this actually meant.

Political Bureau

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