Opinionista John Steenhuisen 2 November 2018

Crime-fighting in South Africa hamstrung by corruption

In Latin, there is a saying: Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? First penned by the Roman poet Juvenal nearly 2,000 years ago, it roughly translates to an all-important question: Who will guard the guardians? In South Africa, now more than ever, this question has become pertinent. Every day it becomes increasingly evident that crime and corruption has penetrated to the heart of our police service.

This week in Parliament the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) heard evidence of corruption and tender irregularities amounting to R 61-million and involving 20 senior officials from the South African Police Service (SAPS). Among those implicated are Deputy National Commissioner Lieutenant-General Stefanus Schutte and former acting National Police Commissioner Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane as well as the SAPS Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Lieutenant General Avhashoni Ramikosi.

These names are not those of small fry — they are the names of officials with a good deal of power, influence and access within the SAPS. The people right at the head of the police service that is meant to guard South Africans from crime.

That corruption in the SAPS has penetrated all the way to the top is, sadly, neither news, nor is it particularly surprising. The case that was under discussion in Scopa relates to a single contract — the provision of forensic light sources, such as torches, by a company named Forensic Data Analysts (FDA). But even a casual search reveals many more instances of gross corruption within the upper echelons of SAPS management.

SAPS CFO Ramikosi is also implicated in the VBS scandal. He admitted to advocate Terry Motau — the author of “The Great Bank Heist” report — that he received unlawful payments through a front company while he was a non-executive director and chairman of the audit committee of VBS. His name appears on the list of the biggest beneficiaries — he looted R 5.9-million.

Ramikosi has since been placed on suspension, but the rot does not begin or end with him, as the list of names implicated in the FDA contract proves. For a self-confessed thief like Ramikosi to have risen as high as he did in the SAPS takes more than just one bad apple.

Seven years ago, the then Public Protector, advocate Thuli Madonsela, found that current Minister of Police Bheki Cele (who was then the National Police Commissioner) was guilty of improper conduct and maladministration in the matter of a half-a-billion-rand lease agreement entered into by the SAPS. Earlier this year Ramaphosa appointed Cele to the position of political head over the SAPS despite this matter still remaining unresolved.

Cele’s predecessor as minister, Fikile Mbalula, still has a cloud hanging over his head over a R680,000 trip to Dubai allegedly bankrolled by a sports company while he was minister of sport. He, too, was appointed as political head of the SAPS despite these unresolved allegations.

Small wonder, then, that a culture of impunity has filtered through to rank-and-file SAPS officers. Last year, SAPS reportedly had the highest number of employees conducting business with the state.

In a reply to a question the DA asked in Parliament in October 2017, it was revealed that more than R11-million was paid out by the SAPS to companies or businesses owned by its own employees between 2014 and 2016. One of the big winners here was an employee in the office of the Mpumalanga provincial commissioner, Colonel ZE Makhaza. Royale Energy Ltd, a company in which he is a non-executive director, received R1.5-million in 2014/15 and more than a million rand in 2015/16.

The DA, when we are voted into government, wants to overhaul the entire SAPS into an honest and professional organisation that actually serves and protects South Africans. We want to root out corruption within the police, retrain officers to serve and protect with pride, and appoint people with a passion for policing.

Under a DA government, people should not feel it necessary to ask, quis custodiet ipsos custodes? DM

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