The Pretoria High Court has granted an urgent interdict barring Richard Mdluli from doing any police work. As our politicians, prosecutors and the police have been dizzying themselves on the merry-go-round, the judiciary has once again taken notice of our constitutional rights. But this particular ride won’t stop anytime soon. By GREG NICOLSON
If you think the case of the former crime intelligence chief has descended into a farce and you’ve stopped reading our daily updates on the clown, elephant and tightrope walker, judge Ephraim Makgoba’s ruling is what you’ve been waiting for.
First, he explained the facts undisputed by any party. After intensive investigations, charges of murder, intimidation, kidnapping, assault and defeating the ends of justice were laid against Mdluli in 2011. Charges of fraud, corruption, theft and money laundering followed. He was suspended with disciplinary hearings to come. All charges were subsequently dropped, Mdluli was reinstated, shifted, suspended, reinstated and suspended again.
Makgoba then established that the matter was urgent. South Africans have a constitutional right that requires the “SAPS and its members to prevent, combat and investigate crime, to maintain public order, protect and secure the inhabitants of the Republic and uphold and enforce the law.” The allegations “affect the very foundation of the constitutional duties”.
“In my view, this matter is of considerable public importance. The sooner this saga is brought to an end the sooner the credibility of the police, security service and the justice system as a whole can be restored,” said Makgoba.
“I cannot lose sight of the serious nature of the allegations against (Mdluli) and the public interest that has been displayed in the proceedings,” he continued. The arguments put forward by Mdluli’s advocate and the representative of acting national police commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, who were co-respondents, were found to have little merit.
In granting the interdict, Makgoba said there is reason to believe the law could be broken if Mdluli returns to work, and just because he’s currently on suspension doesn’t mean it will stay that way. Under the interdict, Mdluli is not allowed to perform any duties as a member of the SAPS, nor can the police or the minister of safety and security assign him any duties until the charges against him have been thoroughly investigated.
So take a deep breath, stop pulling out your hair and refrain from chewing those nails. Civil society organisation Freedom Under Law, later joined by the Social Justice Coalition and Corruption Watch, found the Mdluli merry-go-round’s brake pedal and the courts pushed it.
Joint founder of the Social Justice Coalition, Zackie Achmat, celebrated the interdict. National Prosecuting Authority advocate Glynnis Breytenbach, reportedly suspended for refusing to drop charges against Mdluli, was also in court and looked pleased by the conclusion.
Achmat addressed the media. “The independent justice Makgoba showed that FUL and their really great counsel advocate Maleka presented a case that is unanswerable and gave people who are murdered, robbed, raped, who are facing corrupt officials at every level, a sense of victory because the judge said that the SAPS has a duty to act diligently to dismiss any official found to have contravened the law.”
“I hope that SAPS will not appeal this,” he said. “I hope that Mdluli will not appeal this and I hope that the case gets heard as quickly as possible so, as the judge says, the integrity of our institutions is respected.” Police spokesman Lindela Mashigo declined to comment on the case because Mdluli is challenging his suspension in the Labour Court on June 21.
Okay, so the saga is far from over, but it’s nice to indulge in the fantasy for at least a few hours. If the Labour Court ruling differs with the High Court the matter will likely be heard again. But Makgoba was careful to separate the issue of employer-employee processes with Mdluli’s ability to interfere with South Africans’ constitutional rights.
“He pointed out that this is not a matter of labour relations. This is a matter where Mdluli can easily interfere with the course of justice and obstruct the course of justice. He’s interdicted him from doing that… I doubt whether they’ll find any basis on which to overturn this judgment,” said Achmat.
Another chapter in the saga will be written next week when Mkhwanazi appears in front of the police portfolio committee in Parliament. “We have seen what one can easily describe as chaos, an outright bioscope that is taking place within the police which I think leaves a lot to be desired,” said committee chairwoman Sindi Chikunga on Tuesday.
Despite the brief alliance with Mdluli in the High Court, Mkhwanazi has taken decisive action against the former crime intelligence boss and hasn’t been afraid to suggest there’s been political interference in the matter.
The SAPS disciplinary inquiry should soon begin and there are ongoing investigations by the inspector general for intelligence, the public protector, the Hawks and a commission of inquiry into Mdluli’s allegations of a conspiracy against him. Further court proceedings may follow.
The issues are here to stay. But the readers and police officers who’ve been sickened watching the institutions of justice reeling in the tumble drier of power and politics should take heart that the court judgment may provide a way out of this mess.
Once again, a moment of sanity has been restored not by the ruling party, Parliament, or the police, but by that ultimate guardian of SA democracy, the court. DM
- Richard Mdluli: the merry-go-round spins on in Daily Maverick
- Nathi Mthethwe: Zuma’s Manto in Daily Maverick
- Mdluli move just smoke and mirrors in Mail & Guardian
Photo: Richard Mdluli (Danielle Karallis/foto24)