Richard Mdluli. Pictue: SOWETAN
Richard Mdluli. Pictue: SOWETAN

Police Minister Fikile Mbalula on Wednesday continued with his restructuring of the police force, announcing the dismissal of longtime suspended crime intelligence head Lt-Gen Richard Mdluli.

The long awaited move came almost a month after the ANC changed political leadership, when Cyril Ramaphosa was elected party president.

Mdluli, an ally of President Jacob Zuma, is on trial for kidnapping and has weathered many allegations of fraud and corruption. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Mdluli received his full salary and bonuses in more than six years of suspension.

Soon after his appointment, Mbalula fired acting police commissioner Khomotso Phahlane, who was embroiled in corruption allegations. He also announced the appointment
of Gen Khehla Sitole as new police commissioner.

Mbalula on Wednesday also took the unprecedented decision to call for the establishment of an independent interviewing panel to advise him on a short list of candidates to head elite investigating unit the Hawks, the after the dismissal of former head Lt-Gen Mthandazo Ntlemeza. Mbalula said they had parted ways by “mutual agreement”, with Mdluli taking early leave, and receiving his full benefits and pension.

A new crime intelligence boss was expected to be appointed by “January, February” 2018, he said.

Independent crime analyst Chris de Kock said it was unlikely that the move to end ties with Mdluli would have happened without change in the political leadership of the ANC.

This probably explained why it had taken the minister nine months to remove Mdluli — after immediately acting against Ntlemeza, De Kock said.

The saga surrounding Ntlemeza finally came to an end
in December, when the Constitutional Court dismissed his bid to appeal against a Supreme Court of Appeal judgment dismissing his bid to be reinstated as Hawks boss.

Mbalula said Ntlemeza had since signed the relevant retirement documents.

Sitole said he had ordered a review of the recruitment policy as well as the appointment policy in the SAPS, so that it was linked to the vetting of candidates. “In the near future, no one will be employed in the organisation without vetting.”

The police have been under fire as it has come to light that on many occasions, criminals had been employed and that some senior officers had not been vetted before taking office.

“There is a process of immediately clearing and flushing out those who are criminal as in the system,” Sitole said.

Human resources policies would be changed, he said.

Francois Beukman, chairman of Parliament’s portfolio committee said Mdluli’s ousting was a long time coming. “Lt-Gen Mdluli’s discharge will enable police management to appoint a permanent leader with the requisite skills, energy and innovative plans to guide the division to deliver on its mandate. The stability brought by the appointment of a permanent leader was essential if the unit was to add value in intelligence-driven policing,” Beukman said.

However, he still had misgivings, saying that the committee had long questioned the leadership gap that Mdluli’s suspension caused.

“The long suspension of Mdluli points to the challenge within [public] service of long suspensions without conclusion of disciplinary processes, yet receiving a salary and benefits.

“This [systemic] challenge is unacceptable and must be urgently attended to.”

The committee would meet with Sitole in February to discuss the appointment of a permanent Hawks head and other matters, he said.

With Khulekani Magubane