Tension between JMPD and SAPS laid bare

The public tension between the Johannesburg Metro Police Department and the SAPS risks disrupting their work. Picture: Sizwe Ndingane

The public tension between the Johannesburg Metro Police Department and the SAPS risks disrupting their work. Picture: Sizwe Ndingane

Published May 5, 2024


The public tension between the Johannesburg Metro Police Department and the SAPS risks disrupting their work

This follows weeks of public statements issued by member of the mayoral committee Mgcini Tshwaku aimed at National Police Commissioner General Fannie Masemola and Gauteng Commissioner Lieutenant General Tommy Mthombeni.

Cracks between the JMPD and the SAPS surfaced when Tshwaku revealed that although the JMPD had more successes than the SAPS in Johannesburg, the SAPS didn’t want to work with the JMPD.

He said that when the operation was a JMPD initiative, the SAPS never wanted to take part.

In another embarrassing sign of tension last week, Tshwaku issued a statement calling out Mthombeni, and said they should “cease to falsely claim credit for the arrests of seven criminal suspects” the JMPD had arrested.

The JMPD Tactical Response Unit (TRU) had arrested seven undocumented foreign nationals suspected of committing various criminal activities in the Diepsloot township.

“Taking unwarranted credit not only undermines the hard work of those who actually deserve recognition, but also perpetuates a culture of dishonesty and deceit within law enforcement.

“Instead of basking in unearned glory, the provincial police commissioner ought to demonstrate humility and integrity by acknowledging the contributions of the TRU undercover unit. Furthermore, I urge the commissioner to initiate dialogue and collaboration with the leadership of the JMPD.

“Establishing a co-operative relationship between these entities is not only essential for effective law enforcement but also serves the best interests of the residents of Johannesburg,” read Tshwaku’s statement.

In what appeared to be an extension of an olive branch, Tshwaku encouraged Mthombeni to “step up, acknowledge the truth and commit to fostering a spirit of co-operation for the greater good of the community”.

He said that anything less would be a “disservice to the dedicated officers who put their lives on the line every day, and to the residents who relied on law enforcement to keep their neighbourhoods safe”.

Police spokesperson Brenda Muridili played down the seriousness of the conflict. She said the SAPS and JMPD worked well together.

“The SAPS in Gauteng works with all the three metropolitan police departments in the province as their determination of their triple mandate (crime prevention, road traffic management and by-laws). This is entrenched in the South African Police Service Act, Section 64 (E).

“The SAPS Act, section 64 (A), informs the establishment of the metropolitan police departments as per the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, section 206 (7),” Muridili said.

Last month, Tshwaku took a swipe at Masemola during a visit to the home of the slain JMPD officer, Linda Mthimkhulu, who was reportedly gunned down by SAPS members outside her home in Soweto.

While offering his condolences, Mgcini said: “We strongly condemn the statement made by Masemola saying that JMPD officer Linda Mthimkulu was shooting at the SAPS. We find it reckless, divisive and an indication of a lack of leadership from the national commissioner.

“It is clear that he wants to cause tension between the JMPD and SAPS. There have been strained relations already and, as a department, we have tried by all means to mend these relations, but it's one step forward and two steps back.

“He needs to explain why the three SAPS officers have been charged with murder. He needs to explain the allegations of police brutality unleashed by his SAPS officer that day, where it is even alleged that his colleagues were reprimanding him,” said Mgcini.

He added that the national commissioner should also explain the allegations made that Mthimkhulu and her uncle were beaten and a gun was pointed at her son.

In 2023, in a video that went viral on social media, JMPD officer Sibusiso Zikalala was killed outside a Braamfontein club in Juta Street, allegedly by police officer Constable Bongimpilo Nzuzu Bengu, 28, in a domestic dispute.

Bengu is based at the visible policing unit at Parkview police station.

They had bother been off duty at the time.

In a report by The Star, the alleged shooter said: “The JMPD wanted to shoot me outside of the vehicle; he kept on saying I should come outside of the car. I tried avoiding him, but he kept on saying: 'Come out, come out.’

“I could see that if I drive away, he will shoot me; he just wanted me out. The only option I had was to shoot and make sure I paralysed him.”

In his defence, Bhengu said that if he had shot Zikalala in the hand, Zikalala would have shot him back.

[email protected]