Crime intelligence unit in complete disarray

19 April 2012 - 02:28 By THABO MOKONE
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa
Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa

The crime intelligence unit of the police, which costs taxpayers R2.3-billion a year, is a shambles.

The unit has more than 2000 vacant posts and most of the 8000 officers currently in its employ do not do what they have been hired to do. They are misused by police station commanders as "scribes to take minutes" during management meetings.

These were some of the revelations made by the top brass of the police, led by acting national commissioner Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, when they presented their strategic priorities for this financial year to parliament's police portfolio committee.

The unit has been mired in controversy since the questionable return to office of its chief, Richard Mdluli, last month following a lengthy suspension after allegations of murder and fraud were levelled against him.

There were also reports that Mdluli - who was also present at the meeting but said little - had looted the unit's secret slush fund and that some of the money from the fund had been spent on renovations to the home of Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, in KwaZulu-Natal.

The committee did not raise these two allegations because they fall under the oversight of the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence.

Sindi Chikunga, the ANC MP who chairs the police committee, told Mkhwanazi and his team that crime intelligence was failing the country because it did not detect crimes such as xenophobic attacks, mob justice and drug trafficking.

"The lack of performance in this programme is making the country pay heavily and . if we think that crime intelligence is not assisting then let us consider closing it down and leave everything in the hands of [other] intelligence structures," said Chikunga.

Mkhwanazi admitted that his intelligence arm was not as strong as it was expected to be.

The crime intelligence unit's Major-General Chris de Kock told MPs that part of the problem was that intelligence-gathering officers were not doing the job they had been employed for.

"One of the biggest problems in intelligence is the misuse of [crime intelligence officers] at station level for the purpose of just purely statistics," he said.

"Some are even used as secretaries . and the other biggest problem is the shortage of collection capacity at cluster level."

De Kock pointed out that, when police station commanders used their intelligence officers efficiently, the war against crime was being won.

He cited police stations such as Sandton, in Johannesburg, Bloemfontein's Park Road and Garsfontein, in Pretoria, as good examples.