Johannesburg - Police Minister Fikile Mbalula has ordered national police boss General Khehla Sitole to find controversial former crime intelligence divisional head Lieutenant-General Richard Mdluli’s replacement before the end of next month.
On Wednesday, Mbalula announced that Mdluli had been relieved of his duties by mutual agreement.
Mdluli’s departure ends almost six years of attempts to remove him and for Mbalula to begin to fix the crime intelligence division, which has over the years lost 12 leaders.
“Before the end of February I have instructed General Sitole to look for a fit and proper person (to replace Mdluli),” he said.
Mbalula said he was not only targeting crime intelligence, which he has admitted was a den of lawlessness, but looking to fix “everything” in the SAPS.
"My approach is crime intelligence-led. We need proper leadership, it has been absent for a long time and in that period lawlessness crept in. But we are on track,” Mbalula added.
Mdluli, who by April last year had been suspended for almost six years and earned over R8.3 million in salary, car allowance and bonuses, is also the subject of a probe by the Public Service Commission (PSC).
He was earning between R1.34m and R1.54m.
Mdluli was suspended in May 2011 after he was charged with fraud and corruption relating to alleged misuse of the crime intelligence fund, purchase of luxury vehicles and hiring of family members in high-paying jobs in the unit.
He was reinstated after the charges were withdrawn, but in May 2012, the then acting national police commissioner, Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, suspended him amid allegations that emerged from a court inquest into the murder of Mdluli’s ex-lover’s husband, Oupa Ramogibe, in 1999.
Mdluli and his former colleague Mthembeni Mthunzi are currently on trial for kidnapping intimidation assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm and defeating the ends of justice.
Mbalula said he had absolutely no standing to intervene in Mdluli’s criminal trial and other legal woes.
DA MP Zakhele Mbhele, who asked the PSC to investigate after it took years to conclude disciplinary action against Mdluli, told The Star that the probe was not yet completed.
"We are awaiting feedback on the outcome,” he said.
The SA Policing Union (Sapu), one of the two trade unions representing police officers, described Mdluli’s departure as a “big, good announcement”.
Sapu president Mpho Kwinika said the move was an attempt to restore the image of the police, although he was not pleased with Mbalula reaching a mutual agreement with Mdluli after saying he would face disciplinary action last year.
Kwinika complained that junior police officers were not treated like their bosses and that this was unfair.
Last month, Gauteng police commissioner Deliwe de Lange revealed that about 980 police officers had been fired for corruption in the province since April last year.
According to Kwinika, police management do not do the same with senior officers.
“What is good for the goose is good for the gander,” he said.
Kwinika said Mbalula should have pursued the disciplinary action against Mdluli.
However, he commended Mbalula for making the decision when his predecessors were scared to take action against Mdluli.
Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union president Zizamele Cebekhulu said Mbalula had no choice “whether we like it or not”.
"There is no other way Mbalula could have dealt with this,” he said.
Cebekhulu blamed the criminal justice system for failing to conclude criminal matters against Mdluli timeously.
"The Justice Department must own up for failing to conclude cases against Mdluli,” he said.
Cebekhulu said Mdluli was a victim, had not been found guilty by any court of law and was supposed to have his day in court. “If your case is not concluded, your rights have been infringed,” he added.
Cebekhulu agreed that it was better for Mdluli and “everyone” that the decision was taken.
Francois Beukman, chairperson of Parliament’s portfolio committee on police, said the ousting of Mdluli would enable police management to appoint a permanent leader with the requisite skills, energy and innovative plans to guide the division to deliver on its mandate.
Beukman said Mdluli’s lengthy suspension pointed to the challenge within the civil service of long suspensions without conclusion of disciplinary processes - yet receiving a salary and benefits.