On Monday, Police Minister Bheki Cele, otherwise affectionately known as the Big Cat In The Hat, SAPS National Commissioner, Khehla Sitole, flanked by new Hawks head, Godfrey Lebeya and other senior SAPS officials, announced a far-reaching crime strategy aimed at securing the South African state and its citizens. For years, a parasitic shadow criminal state, often located within the SAPS itself, has corroded the ability of the criminal justice sector to fulfill its democratic mandate. Time for an industrial-strength clean out.
The idea that vehicles transporting cash payments of social grants to the country’s most poor and vulnerable might have to be escorted by a military convoy, as SA Social Security Agency CEO Abraham Mahlangu suggested to the Constitutional Court last week, gives some indication of the mega scale of crime in this country.
Maybe that is why, at Monday’s press conference announcing a new and comprehensive “stabilisation intervention plan” to combat serious, violent crime in South Africa, General Khehla Sitole, opted to wear a fresh camouflage Special Task Force uniform. While it is technically illegal for him to do so, and it could be viewed as improper, the aim clearly was to send a visually striking memo to the country’s criminals who terrorise and kill South Africans daily.
The uniform seems to suggest: “We are ready for battle.”
Sitole is a career cop who has risen through the ranks gathering several legit ribbons and medals along the way, including the SAPS Star, SAPS Medal for Faithful Service, Ten Year Commemoration Medal, Twenty Year Loyal Service Medal, Soccer World Cup 2010 Support Medal, Amalgamation Medal and a Centenary Medal. Unlike one of his predecessors, former National Commissioner, Riah Phiyega, who enjoyed wearing medals she never earned as a fetching fashion accessories.
Point is, the time for lip service and play-acting at crime prevention is over. The stakes are too high and threaten the viability of South Africa’s democratic state, from both the inside and the outside. Which is why the wide-ranging stabilisation intervention plan which has been implemented not a moment too soon must be welcomed and supported.
“We are reclaiming the authority of the state,” said Sitole.
Bheki Cele (Police Minister Without A Twitter Account), Daily Maverick has reliably learned, has consulted widely with law enforcement veterans and specialists, some of whom have been purged from the ranks, about the current situation in all divisions of the SAPS and the Hawks. Cele, however, is not new to the terrain having served as SAPS National Commissioner from 2009 (replacing Jackie Selebi) before he was dismissed in 2012.
On Monday Cele and Sitole said one of the priorities would be the cleaning up of Crime Intelligence, the most fetid and unaccountable divisions with access to ample slush fund money and inside information on the country’s financial sector.
Sitole also announced that a special session dedicated entirely to Crime Intelligence would take place on Tuesday.
“We are very clear of the products we want and how we want to reclaim the authority of the state. We are looking at the big fishes at this particular time. The overhauling of CI is part and parcel of the stabilisation plan,” said Sitole.
One of the most significant arrests in January this year was that of Captain Morris “KGB” Tshabalala, a convicted violent armed robber who was appointed as an agent in crime intelligence. IPID has accused Tshabalala of being the bagman for Operation Thibela, an intelligence operation during which around R50-million in cash was secreted into the ANC’s elective conference in Mangaung in 2012 in order to allegedly buy votes for Jacob Zuma.
Tshabalala was appointed to head, according to IPID the “Rapid Deployment Unit”, a hand-picked clutch of 40 intelligence officers gathered, according to City Press, to perform a “mystery mission” at Mangaung. The team had been cobbled together three weeks prior to the conference by then Acting Crime Intelligence head, Major-General Chris Ngcobo, Zuma’s former bodyguard.
IPID’s head of investigations, Matthew Sesoko, told Scopa in February that the directorate had, in the course of its investigation, discovered that “Captain Tshabalala had not been doing any work related to fighting crime – rather, he was doing work involving factional battles within the ANC”.
With the access to apparently unlimited reserves of cash now cut off and cauterised, this criminal cabal has had to seek other avenues to obtain much-needed cash. This might be one factor to consider in the sudden and alarming spike in Cash-in-Transit heists – 141 – since the start of the year.
It is common knowledge that the success of these highly organised hits depend on insider knowledge – inside SAPS as well as the companies transporting cash.
Replying to a parliamentary question last week, Cele said that 10 SAPS generals were being probed and that 27 crime intelligence officers had criminal records – 20 related to traffic violations and seven to more serious offenses. New CI head, Peter Jacobs is investigating these cases. IPID head Robert McBride has said that the investigations into top cops involved “billions of rand”.
The High-Density Stabilisation Intervention Plan includes lifestyle audits for SAPS members, a devolution of SAPS members from administrative positions to on-the-ground work, shifting authority closer to communities, the placing of senior cops, Lieutenant-Generals in the field, the migration of resources to a local policing framework, the confiscation of illegal guns and the purging of the SAPS of corrupt senior members.
Cele said the intention with the plan is to combat crime including cash-in-transit heists, car hijacking, murders, house robberies, gang violence and related crimes as well as taxi violence and related crimes.
Specialised teams would also be dedicated to tracking down and arresting wanted suspects as part of the Organised Crime Threat Analysis (OCTA) approach, ensuring the “downward management of ‘red dockets’”.
Many dockets handed to senior members for investigation, particularly into high-profile, politically connected individuals, have been gathering dust on desks or filing cabinets.
“In this, dedicated detectives will be working around the clock to gather information and evidence to identify those responsible for committing serious and violent crimes. This will be a 24-hour multi-disciplinary activation plan dubbed ‘Squeezing the space for criminals through an offensive approach’,” said Cele.
From now on, Cele vowed, law enforcement would ensure “high density visibility of uniformed police officers on foot and vehicles, supported by the SAPS air wing, continuous cordon and search operations, continuous roadblocks and relentless search for wanted suspects”.
The clean-up of SAPS is key to combatting crime in South Africa. SAPS has long been a haven for criminals and the rot did not start after 1994. It is a persistent and dangerous part of its DNA and only radical surgery will help the organism to survive.
The co-ordinated plan has been met with widespread approval. SAPS is in ICU being attended to by a top team of seasoned men and women, this after lingering in the emergency unit with a knife in its head, for years now.
Cele’s gravitas, unlike former Minster Fear Fokkol, brings with it a sense of deliberate focus and concern and not just hot Twitter winds combined with posed selfies and trite provocations.
Finally, the adults are in charge. And not a moment too soon. DM
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