eNCA | Gill Gifford:
Pretoria – Former Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa is one of the biggest losers in President Jacob Zuma’s newly-announced cabinet.
Mthethwa, who was demoted from the police ministry to the Department of Arts and Culture, appears to be taking the fall for failure within his portfolio and inaction.
File image. Outgoing police minister Nathi Mthethwa has been demoted to the ministry of arts and culture.
Under Mthethwa’s tenure as police minister, the SA Police Service came under severe criticism for high profile fiascos, the main one being the 2012 Marikana massacre in which 34 striking miners were shot dead by police.
The massacre is the focus of the ongoing Farlam Commission of Inquiry.
Mthethwa, along with former State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele, was also implicated in the poor handling of the Nkandla saga.
There has also been a dramatic increase in the number of public protestors killed by police, a lot of police heavy handedness reported coupled with no improvements around public trust in the police or in perceptions relating to police corruption – all under Mthethwa’s watch.
According to Gareth Newham, head of the Governance, Crime and Justice Programme at the Institute for Security Studies, Mthethwa’s shift in portfolio is indeed seen as a huge demotion, with him going from a high profile ministry to a much lower one.
“But he is still in cabinet so he will have all the perks, we just won’t be hearing that much of him,” Newham said.
Mthethwa’s demotion is part of a clean sweep in the security cluster – seemingly a political decision based on the fact that there has been little positive change within the portfolio in recent years.
“It’s gone a bit under the radar, but there has been a notable increase in virtually every category of serious and violent crime within the past year. This is driving up fear despite the increase of 70,000 members within the police,” Newham said.
The intelligence ministry had failed to quell a rise in organised crime and had also been embroiled in scandal with the landing of the Gupta plane at Waterkloof Air Force Base.
“I think what Zuma wants to do is send out a signal that things are going to be different now,” Newham explained, adding that if there had been no change in the security cluster ministers people would have little reason to hope for positive changes.
“Some of the ministers lost a lot of credibility because were forced to spend a lot of time defending issues around Zuma himself – so it’s a bit unfair because they had no control over that,” Newham said.
The police ministry was particularly difficult with the national commissioner of police also being a political appointee.
“So you had a situation in the past for example with the appointment of Bheki Cele (as commissioner) who was politically more senior than the minister and did his own thing,” Newham said, explaining that this had led to clashes.
A more politically malleable appointment in the form of Riah Phiyega was then made.
“But she has no experience in policing and was bound to make mistakes, and now the police have become as closed and opaque as they were in the past. We’ve soon poor appointments and lots of money wasted on court battles to fight the indefensible, like Richard Mdluli,” Newham said.
The National Development Plan has recommended that a national policing board be established to look at recruitments, promotions and be an external body that holds the police to account.
Newham said this was a positive step and would do much to address issues caused by various recent shifts within police top management which, on each occasion, would see the new incumbent bringing in their own people to take over the senior leadership.
“There is a serious crisis in top management … there is a lot of suspicion, people are not working as a team and no action taken against Mdluli means that the honest people at the top don’t know where they stand,” said Newham, commenting on the political issues hampering the police.
The new police minister is Nkosinathi Nhleko, a former director general in the labour department, described as someone who has some political clout.
“I am cautiously optimistic because there is new blood in the portfolio, but we will have to see if he will have the political will to address the problems he is facing,” Newham said.
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