DEBATE ON POLICE BUDGET VOTE 2012 / 13
SPEECH BY DIANNE KOHLER BARNARD, DA SHADOW MINISTER OF POLICE
09 May 2012
The police are constitutionally mandated to prevent, combat and investigate crime, maintain public order, protect and secure the inhabitants of South Africa and their property, uphold and enforce the law. The police, in our society in which families and communities are being torn apart and ravaged by high levels of violent crime, is nothing short of an essential service.
Yet our country has reached a defining political moment as we debate today the budget vote for this most crucial entity, the South African Police Service. The SAPS has asked us to approve R62.5 billion.
The question being asked by every reporter, every political analyst, every citizen and which should be asked by every politician in the country is: Has there been political interference within the Service? The conclusion after joining the dots, is that President Zuma has quite possibly reached into the SAPS to protect a police officer accused of fraud, of murder, of corruption...one Richard Mdluli, the controversially reinstated head of Crime Intelligence and the man the Minister announced a few moments ago has now been removed from his position.
One wonders if without the pressure from the Democratic Alliance and our free media, if the Minister would have made any move at all, and one must ask the question why it is that he’s being shifted rather than suspended as he should be.
This man, within a matter of months, was pushed into one of the most powerful positions held by any individual in the country. He was the only person who could approach a judge to request communication interceptions and even the allegedly independent Hawks had to go to him cap in hand asking if he would apply for communications interceptions for their investigations.
He also swept the VIP Protection unit under his control so he had a heavily armed team reporting on the movement of politicians 24-hours a day. This man had the ability to tap the phone calls of politicians as well as criminals, which is a tantalising fruit for someone who avoided prosecution as a result of secret recordings of telephone conversations.
This is the elephant in the living room. I refer to this situation as the elephant in the living room because while we all discuss budgets; and 27 000 SAPS members who have firearms without licences; the 150 police stations without electricity, or water, or toilets or all three; while we discuss the fact that Public Works regularly forgets to pay the rent on the dozens of SAPS buildings it oversees so that SAPS members are locked out by angry landlords – no one anywhere within Government dared to confront the issue of Richard Mdluli. Everyone knows he’s there, but within Government extreme care is taken to avoid discussing him. After all with him at the helm of the police, one faction could rely on state apparatus to investigate the activities of his opponents,
During the budget briefings I did attempt to have him speak, but he was shut down by the Acting National Police Commissioner.
Richar Mdluli is the quintessential Teflon Man who has shucked off murder and fraud charges, indeed an entire shopping cart of charges within the Service. The report by Major General Mark Hankel highlights in excruciating detail that shopping cart of alleged actions, any one of which would have had any other SAPS member suspended. Indeed the SAPS has the highest total monthly salary of suspended members of any Ministry because they are so serious in rooting out criminality within the Service, yet somehow that enthusiasm just doesn’t seem to apply to this man.
Has he in fact even got security clearance, I wonder? What with the ever-increasing density of the cloud handing over his head, I somehow doubt it, yet he surely deals with classified documents on a daily basis. I’ve put through a Parliamentary question to that effect, but perhaps the Minister would like to take this opportunity to give us the answer now?
Perhaps he could also answer how it was that Richard Mdluli was not arrested for defeating the ends of justice when the Hawks reportedly found at least seven missing police dockets locked in his safe over a year ago?
And I’d like to know if he was in any way involved in the decision to terminate the disciplinary proceedings against Richard Mdluli? And I’d like to know if he was in any way involved in the reinstatement of Richard Mdluli? And I’d like to know if he did indeed receive a copy of the letter in which Richard Mdluli made a pledge to the President to support him as a senior member of a political party ?
Meanwhile we’ve seen a senior public prosecutor have two attempts made on her life shortly after handing a 200-page report on the lifting of the murder charges against Mdluli to the Acting head of the NPA who now mysteriously says she’s never received it. We have the General Council of the Bar pointing to a spate of thefts from and harassment of advocates...thefts of just laptops and documents from advocates involved in high profile cases involving the Minister of Police or Police in his department. I don’t believe in coincidences.
Equally so in the case of a member of the Board of Inquiry into the suspended national police commissioner – three men armed with R5 assault rifles robbed him of laptops and documents. The rifles were the same type as those recently reported stolen from a safe at the Air Force Base in Waterkloof. The stolen rifles belonged to the VIP protection unit, until minutes ago situated under Richard Mdluli. Let me repeat: I don’t believe in coincidences.
While what we’re seeing is a fundamental collapse of trust in our Justice Cluster institutions, the Cabinet has claimed simultaneously that it didn’t discuss the Richard Mdluli saga, but that it had somehow without discussion come to the conclusion that what was going on in the SAPS was merely a series of “public spats”. A spat? That is what I would call the outcome of two women reaching for the same dress at a sale. And this was a comment from a collection of what are supposed to be the best political brains in our country. Are they frightened of Richard Mdluli, perhaps?
The South African public believes the situation is severe. That political in-fighting and factionalism are paralysing our law enforcement agencies. Severe in that many believe we are teetering on the brink of becoming a Police State and this situation is being described as the greatest threat to the Criminal Justice System South Africa has faced in years. This has been, and still is cadre deployment at its very worse, as a deeply, deeply compromised person was allowed to resume his position despite a national outcry.
All of this is linked to the ongoing leadership battle within the ANC ahead of its elective congress, and the outcry about the mismanagement of the SAPS by the suspended national police commissioner pales into insignificance in the face of this debacle.
Meanwhile, every South African newspaper, radio and television station has been highlighting the war between various factions within the SAPS.
This is the same Cabinet of the current Government under which the Ministry of Police has become something of a hot potato, with one National Police Commissioner behind bars, the next suspended for conduct that was improper, unlawful and amounted to maladministration...and the latest under investigation by the Public Protector who says there is a prima facie case of improper conduct and abuse of power, which warrants an investigation.
We’ve seen what happens when the wrong person is at the top – with just 5% of the SAPS budget audited, the Auditor General found R76-million worth of irregular expenditure.
I was told by the Minister that the reason he wouldn’t detail who had been given the contracts for the two national police days was that there was an investigation under way. The real answer which had been prepared by Ministry staff, was somehow released to the media and ended up in my hands. Presumably this investigation will look into whose family members from the top tier of the SAPS were allegedly granted the contracts for the R65-million spent. It will take a brave police officer indeed to investigate their superiors so I’m not holding my breath on the outcome which I believe will join so many other investigation outcomes under that well-used Police carpet.
Of equal import to the Mdluli saga has been the Ministry’s response to the Glenister Judgement by the Constitutional Court when it ruled on the unconstitutionality of the Hawks. It was left to Parliament to ensure that a sufficiently independent unit was created and it did not determine that it should be within the SAPS.
We had such a unit of course, but the Scorpions were shut down because it investigated corruption without fear or favour and one ANC politician too many ended up feeling its sting.
At the time virtually every legal firm, NGO, individual citizen, every Member of Parliament who spoke against the closure of the Scorpions, said they believed Bob Glenister would win his case. Yet honourable members Maggie Sotu and Yunis Carrim said the decision had already been taken in Polokwane in 2007, and therefore would be implemented no matter what. The tens of thousands of petitions, the marches, the editorials, they were ignored, and Parliament and the Police Portfolio Committee have ended up with egg all over their faces. The two who drove the closure of the unit were, of course, given Deputy Ministerial-position rewards...one ironically, of the Police.
We all know that full independence means exactly that – a unit of primarily civilians who will service this country without fear or favour. Not members of SAPS – not the units of whom have simply been gathered together and named the Hawks. The Blue Code of Silence always has and always will mean that police close ranks to protect their colleagues from investigation – there can be no independence in this ranked structure.
While we have taken this brief break for this debate, the Police Portfolio Committee, known as the toughest portfolio committee in Parliament, with the strongest Chairperson in Parliament, is presiding over the bizarre process of rubberstamping what the Secretary of Police finally presented a few weeks ago – a year after the judgement.
No attempt at all is being made to include anything but a single correction from the 12 substantive inputs from top Law Professors and Advocates from around the country. Indeed, it seems the committee is simply being herded down a pre-determined ANC path while going through the motions, pretending this is all a democratic process. Not a single deviation from this path is even being considered.
This is exactly what happened the last time, this same process that has ensured this whole sorry mess has been dumped back in the lap of the Police Portfolio Committee.
Mr Glenister has already stated that he will take this proposed Bill straight back to the Constitutional Court should he not believe the unit to be sufficiently independent.
This is hardly comforting to South African citizens who have once again become equally scornful and terrified of SAPS members as, according to the ICD, they shoot to kill - and miss - on a regular basis, killing civilians and protesters, while on the side they demand bribes, rape, rob, torture and plunder. They are terrified because the difference between armed pursuit and extrajudicial assassination has become increasingly blurred.
At least we now know why so many of them miss what they aim at as 27 000 of them are carrying firearms without having passed their licences – in fact many of them have actually tried and then failed their licences, but of course the move to by the Acting National Police Commissioner to do the right thing and disarm them was stopped in its tracks. He then told us not to panic as it was all a misunderstanding – as though proper training in the use of firearms was negotiable for SAPS members. Perhaps it was all a misunderstanding that the Westville Hospital gunman who held staff hostage was able to renew his firearm licence despite having bipolar disorder – while SAPS members can’t seem to get around to renewing theirs?
We don’t have the death penalty, but we have hundreds of deaths in custody and at the hands of SAPS members, as well as allegations of hit squads operating in several provinces.
Indeed in between the stories littering pages of the media, all focussing on the issue of the looting of the Crime Intelligence Slush fund by SAPS members and top politicians, and this past weekend the revelations of a second slush fund, are the reports which relate to an unprecedented assault for the first time in our democratic era, by police using unrestrained violence in hunting down criminals and non-criminals alike that is literally exploding across SA.
What it is, is a saga we hoped we’d never see again because we hoped that the people in this teenage democratic dispensation would be a head and shoulders above what we had before.
What I smell in South Africa today is fear, fuelled by the very budget we debate today. This fear is in response to this mess which represents everything we should never have allowed ourselves to become. Where is the credible reason of how it was that Richard Mdluli escaped criminal prosecution for alleged murder, abuse of state resources, fraud, corruption and defeating the ends of justice?
Those charges were withdrawn contrary to the advice of the senior NPA Prosecutor Glynnis Breytenbach – and right after she handed over a 200 page report, challenging the dismissal of these charges, the attacks on her began.
Everything about this case is a mystery, the NPA won’t explain their decision to drop the charges, and when someone questions that decision her life is in danger; while a letter emerges wherein Richard Mdluli declares his political allegiance to the President. Our police are, of course, meant to be apolitical.
Another area where we are seeing inexplicable deals done is in the area of personnel. On one Police Portfolio oversight visit I discovered a woman with an MA degree who had had a man with just a Standard 8 promoted above her. Firstly how did someone with just a Standard 8 get into the SAPS? And secondly why aren’t they promoting this highly qualified woman? And before those currently in the government benches start hurling racist invectives at me – they were both black.
The Public Protector is investigating the claims of bizarre promotions within the SAPS at my request and I assure you we will hear how it is that drivers and secretaries and relatives are bounced up the ranks when they have zero experience or qualifications.
Following bizarre promotions, are the even more bizarre retirements with huge padded pension payouts under Section 35 – R31,2-million in the past two years – especially when those given these packages are under criminal investigation.
Literally everywhere this Portfolio Committee looks there is criminality within the SAPS – to the extent that the majority of our honest and honourable police are actually becoming increasingly embarrassed to wear the uniform. Not that I’m saying that any of them have joined the SANDF Pink Slipper brigade – but morale is at an all-time low.
To turn this situation around what we need here in Parliament today, is an assurance from the Minister that this deeply compromised man, Richard Mdluli, is not even being considered as our next national police commissioner.
Of course we do still have a national police commissioner but since he moved out the nation has moved on. There is wide acceptance that his shoot-to-kill mantra, learned at the feet of the then deputy Minister of Police, Susan Shebangu, has lead to a massive increase in the numbers of fatal shootings, rapes and instances of torture by SAPS members. Protesters today are once again likely to be murdered, there are allegations of hit squads – all under the newly Militarised SAPS into which Bheki Cele brought the apartheid era ranks
Few can actually imagine why the President appointed Bheki Cele at all. He is the man who infamously said, and I quote, “A monkey came all the way from London to have his wife murdered here.” That was a reference to murder accused Shrien Dewani. The National Police Commissioner presumably never learned about innocent until proven guilty, and made that and many other comments in what seemed to be an all-out attempt in terms of prejudging the issue, to destroy the extradition application.
Others may have forgotten, but I certainly remember that the Public Protector had to pressure the now suspended National Police commissioner to look into allegations that Richard Mdluli chose not to investigate certain matters in Gauteng – and yet Richard Mdluli was hired anyway, spent a few days in a cell...and is back as the head of Crime Intelligence.
Nor will we forget that the acting national director of public prosecutions, Nomgcobo Jiba, who suspended Glyis Breytenbach, was one of those who owes a huge debt to Richard Mdluli as he came to her rescue when she was suspended over her alleged involvement in a plot to have Scorpions Gauteng boss Gerrie Nel, arrested. Nel had prosecuted her husband for stealing a client’s money out of his firm’s trust account – but of course the President expunged his criminal record in September 2010.
The NPA in turn dropped the charges against Richard Mdluli.
All of the things I’ve touched on today explain why it was that Vusimuzi Silwanyan found himself so disgusted at the SAPS indifference at his 14-year-old daughter’s murder that he hunted down the killers himself in just five days. He did what the SAPS members either couldn’t or wouldn’t do, and one has to ask, if the citizens are doing a better job than the SAPS – why are we looking to give them a greater budget than ever before?
In closing I must thank especially our extraordinary Chairperson Sindi Chicunga, for her leadership, and also thanks must go to the vast majority of SAPS members – even in this dark time in the history of the Service.
Minister Nathi Mthetwa has been ominously silent during the months of disturbing developments within the SAPS – despite his responsibilities in terms of overall control and management. Moving past the Mdluli saga, as difficult as that is, we see a growing list of revelations about the Service that he has sidestepped such as the evictions and lockouts of police officers from their offices in at least four provinces; the reports that the suspended National Police Commissioner signed off on a R26-million tender awarded to a businessman who had showered top police officials with expensive gifts to cinch the deal; and the alleged involvement of the Acting National Commissioner in the cover up of the murder of an innocent civilian to name but a
In any other democratic society in which the police, its senior management and its political head were so deeply embroiled in allegation and counter-allegation, a Minister who has been so ominously silent and this lax in effectively dealing with the situation, would have done the honourable thing and resigned.