Musical chairs at Western Cape SAPS ’deliberate move to destabilise police service in the province’
Cape Town - Fresh calls to restore stability in the Western Cape’s police have been made after the provincial commissioner was moved to Gauteng, less than two years in the hot seat.
National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole moved Lieutenant-General Yolisa Mokgabudi (formerly Matakata) this week to assume duties as Acting Divisional Commissioner: Crime Intelligence.
Major-General Thembinkosi Patekile is now acting provincial commissioner.
Current head of Crime Intelligence Peter Jacobs is currently on suspension and an internal disciplinary process is expected to commence next week.
Police spokesperson Brigadier Vish Naidoo said the acting positions of both generals were until further notice.
Activist Colin Arendse called the move "unfortunate " and suggested that the provincial police service was bearing the brunt of politics within the national SAPS and was being used as a "scapegoat".
"We will now have to get a new provincial commissioner at some point. There's no reason why a local, experienced top cop like Jeremy Vearey cannot be appointed to fill the position. The only reason is that it will not serve organised crime because he is a threat. The minister must take a bold step and appoint him. He has the credentials," Arendse argued.
Arendse said while Patekile, who had acted in the capacity after ex-commissioner Arno Lamoer was suspended, seemed to be performing well in the Eastern Cape, it was now time to look at the local policemen and not sideline them.
The SACP also slammed Sitole's move and said it might "fuel destabilisation and leadership paralysis".
The party’s provincial spokesperson, Monwabisi Sokoyi said it appeared that "there was a deliberate move to destabilise the police service in the province".
"The last time we had some sense of stability in leadership was more than 10 years ago. All we see now are constant changes", said Sokoyi.
He said the party was concerned that "the disruptions" in leadership would hinder efforts to fight crime and bring criminals to book.
Western Cape police stations were among the 30 stations countrywide that recorded the highest numbers of murders in the country between October and December 2020.
Sokoyi said some murder cases were "yet to be investigated ".
Crime expert Eldred de Klerk said the fact that there was no clear closing date for the acting positions was of concern and questionable.
"After two years in the position, Mokgabudi would have now started to consolidate the plan to fight crime and be ready to make a change. As a province, we have major challenges of rape, murder and organised crime that need to be urgently addressed.
"Secondly, I question why it was necessary to move her when Jacobs is expected to resume his duties soon and what are deputies there for is they cannot be utilised in acting positions for a short period?", said De Klerk.
He said the only rationale could be that the police brass did not want to create an expectation among locals that they would stand a chance of filling the position.
De Klerk called for major changes to be made in the national leadership of SAPS as well.
"This would be a good opportunity for the president to implement the recommendations made before to conduct competency, integrity and lifestyle audits and see whether senior officers are fit for purpose," he added.
Since Petros' move to Gauteng to fill the hot seat as provincial commissioner in 2010, the battle to appoint a provincial police head has been marked by political controversy, with both the DA and the ANC accusing each other of interference in the process.
The successor to Petros, Lieutenant-General Arno Lamoer served for five years before he was removed after facing charges of corruption, money laundering and racketeering.
He was later jailed but released on parole.
Controversial Lieutenant Khombinkosi Jula, from KwaZulu-Natal was brought in in 2016 and was transferred back to the province in mid-2019.
Speculation was also rife that there could be changes within the national leadership of SAPS.
" There's a damning court judgement regarding the declassification of documents related to an alleged attempt to defraud the SAPS Crime Intelligence's secret fund of R45 million ahead of the ANC's Nasrec elective conference in 2017. Some officials might not be able to survive in the service for long" said a police official who did not want to be named.