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One-man line of defence against implosion of police

The Editor, The Times Newspaper | 2012-05-03 00:17:46.0

The Times Editorial: Lieutenant-General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi issued a warning yesterday to those he believes are undermining the integrity of the South African Police Service.

It was given against the backdrop of the massive destabilisation that the police force has suffered over the past few years. The force's national commissioners - ultimately responsible for operational matters - have been tarnished by acts, or suspicions, of impropriety.

Within this turmoil is the highly contentious police head of intelligence, Richard Mdluli, who has been mired in controversies, including being charged with fraud.

Now it appears that a war of attrition and revenge is being waged in the top echelons of the police, a war that threatens to undermine whatever stability remains in the force.

Already suffering from shockingly low morale, ordinary police officers have been forced to witness infighting among the people meant to lead them.

Yesterday, Mkhwanazi vowed - as acting national commissioner - that he would destroy those intent on using the police to enrich themselves. Though he did not mention names, he was obviously referring to the Mdluli matter.

That Mdluli appears to enjoy the protection and favour of President Jacob Zuma - to the extent that the spy boss has been mentioned as a possible successor to the suspended present commissioner, Bheki Cele - does little to dispel the impression that more than merely police matters are involved. There seems to be an element of political favour and interference.

It is hugely disconcerting to witness Mdluli's continued survival in the face of serious, even if untested, allegations.

A police officer, irrespective of rank, should be above reproach. Mdluli clearly is not. That he survives says much about the patronage he is afforded.

Which is why, however seemingly brave, Mkhwanazi's war cry might be short-lived.

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