Cape Town - The battle lines for the title of Western Cape top cop have been drawn now that the post is set to become vacant with the possible transfer of Lieutenant-General Khombinkosi Jula back to KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).

The contest for the job comes amid allegations of intense infighting among senior police officers in the province and a spike in gang wars.

MEC for Community Safety Albert Fritz has called for the “transparent appointment” of a new provincial commissioner who should “set aside internal politics and prioritise the spate of gang violence and criminality” in the province.

But community activist Colin Arendse accused the DA of having a hand in the appointment of Jula instead of deputy commissioner for crime detection Jeremy Vearey, who was tipped for the job two years ago.

Fritz and Premier Alan Winde have insisted they be consulted on the appointment of a new police commissioner, but national police spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo said “nothing has been finalised”.

“There was a discussion”, in which national police commissioner General Khehla Sitole spoke to Jula about taking up a post in KZN, Naidoo said.

Director of the Safety and Violence Initiative at UCT Dr Guy Lamb said the next provincial commissioner should be a career police officer with “deep operational and managerial experience”, someone who is beyond reproach.

“It is essential that the next provincial commissioner has an informed and nuanced understanding of the determinants of crime (particularly violent crime) in the province and knowledge of the most appropriate and practical government responses to those problems. The person should also have robust diplomatic skills, as crime can only be effectively reduced if he/she is able to build solid and sustainable partnerships with the provincial government and relevant officials in the City of Cape Town, as well as with other national government departments”, said Lamb.

The Western Cape has had experienced career police officers in the past, but this did not exempt them from controversy.

Here is a list of some of provincial commissioners in the past 20 years:

Leon Wessels served until October 1999, when in March that year, an article in the Cape Argus said the “beleaguered police commissioner Leon Wessels is set to go”. It said “some of the country’s toughest crime fighters will be lined up as the race to the Western Cape hot seat begins”.

The article reported “police headquarters in Pretoria sees the appointment of a new provincial commissioner as key to transformation and in the fight against gangsterism and urban terror”.

Wessels was succeeded by Lennit Max, who served until 2003. He was hailed as a boon for transformation.

But before coming to Cape Town, Max had been an assistant commissioner in the Eastern Cape, where he was accused of sexual harassment, but cleared by then-police commissioner George Fivaz. Former community safety MEC Leonard Ramatlakane (ANC) launched an investigation into Max after two senior female police officers accused him of victimising them. Max’s term ended in 2003 and he later became the DA’s community safety MEC, but was given the boot by former premier Helen Zille in 2010.

Lieutenant-General Mzwandile Petros was appointed provincial commissioner in 2003, with a second term from 2008. He joined the SAPS in 1995 and had been an Umkhonto we Sizwe operative in the Western Cape during apartheid. Petros left toward the end of 2010 to become police commissioner in Gauteng.

Tension arose between the DA and the ANC as top cop General Bheki Cele and former community safety MEC Max wanted to control who would succeed Petros. Cele at the time said he appointed the provincial commissioner.

Lieutenant-General Arno Lamoer, with 30 years’ service in the police, took up the post in November 2010. A proud Cele described him as “a well-trained and experienced officer, with immeasurable knowledge of the Western Cape... well-suited to lead the police”. .

Five years later Lamoer was suspended on charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering involving a Goodwood businessman Saleem Dawjee and several other senior police officers. He pleaded guilty to one of the charges last year and was sent to jail.

Jula was appointed provincial commissioner after Lamoer was suspended in 2016 in what was described by former MEC for community safety Dan Plato as a “rigorous selection process”.

Plato, who has since become Cape Town mayor, announced that Jula had 28 years’ policing experience and “holds the promise of effectively addressing the policing service delivery constraints that the Western Cape has been experiencing”.

But Arendse described the move as a “default appointment”.

The DA was opposed to Vearey so they forced their hand which resulted in“Jula, with disastrous results”.

The previous year, 2015, Zille had written a letter, which was leaked, in which she raised concerns that Vearey publicly supported the ANC.

Just over two years into a five-year term, Jula’s tenure is set to come to an end.

Jula is seen as central to infighting within the provincial police and has been accused of setting up the Major Offences Reaction Team (MORT) to rival the Anti-Gang Unit (AGU), launched in Hanover Park last year.

The Mort is headed by Brigadier Zingisa Manci, wife of deputy provincial police commissioner Mpumelelo Manci.

They are believed to be close to Jula and all come from KZN.

The AGU’s head is Major-General Andre Lincoln, a former operative of the ANC’s military wing Umkhonto we Sizwe.

He has taken the SAPS to court and is known for his fight against corruption.

Also at odds with the Jula and Manci group is Vearey, head of detectives in the province, a former MK operative and a member of Nelson Mandela’s security detail. Internal battles played out after the shooting of AGU members in Sweet Home Farm informal settlement, Philippi last month. Six officers were wounded when they were shot at while in search of a murder suspect.

Winde said the province had written to national police leadership requesting to be consulted in the appointment of a new commissioner.

Also mentioned for the post is Peter Jacobs, a former head of crime intelligence in the province. Jacobs was appointed head of crime intelligence in March last year.

Weekend Argus