Fikile Mbalula. Picture: THE TIMES
Fikile Mbalula. Picture: THE TIMES

Police Minister Fikile Mbalula has issued a call-up for more than 600 former freedom fighters to attend a meeting on Friday to discuss promotions.

This had raised fear that Mbalula was seeking to buy their loyalty ahead of the ANC elective conference in December and the 2019 elections, police sources said.

The directive, seen by Business Day, was issued on Monday to the police top brass including the head of the Hawks and all divisional and provisional commissioners.

It requires 628 nonstatutory forces (NSF) members "who are in the process of being reranked" to attend a meeting in formal dress with Mbalula at the  South African Police Service (SAPS) Tshwane Academy.

The largest group, of 240, are from Gauteng.

NSF members are police officials from the armed wings of former liberation movements integrated into the SAPS.

The call-up specifies that retired NSF members and those who had left the police and then applied to be re-enlisted "will be dealt with at a later phase", suggesting a far higher number will be promoted in due course.

Mbalula’s spokesman Vuyo Mhaga denied that the requirement that members had to arrive in formal dress — either in "suit and tie" or uniforms – indicated they would be promoted.

He said it was an "ordinary meeting" forming part of a continuing process run by a task team to integrate mostly former Umkhonto we Sizwe and Azanian People’s Liberation Army members into the police force.

"The police have not gone through that integration like the South African National Defence Force has done," he said.

"So you still have to correct that abnormality."

He denied that promoting former liberation fighters was a way of ensuring their loyalty ahead of the ANC conference.

"This is an issue that has been there forever. There’s no truth in that whatsoever. There’s a task team dealing with this. It’s part of an ongoing process," he said.

But police sources were adamant that ensuring the police’s top brass were on the ANC’s side played a role in the NSF promotions.

"It’s like pre-Mangaung," said one, referring to the ANC’s 2012 elective conference.

"Swinging the balance of political forces is a major consideration. This is an attempt to appease them. They will be loyal to the incumbent."

Another police official agreed that "you’re promoting loyalists" and warned of the financial implications. "When you promote people to a certain level, from brigadier upwards, they’re entitled to a personal secretary, subsidies on the cars, a certain office space, furniture," he said.

"So besides the salaries if you look at [the perks] that go with these ranks, it’s enormous."

In January the Sunday Times quoted police service officials as describing the plan to promote NSF members, which had been approved by the Cabinet and Parliament, as "payback for pals".

The officials said many of those being promoted formed part of the police’s VIP blue lights brigades and lacked the requisite skills and qualifications for their positions.

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