Mbalula out to ‘squeeze’ crim­i­nals

CityPress - - News - ABRAM MASHEGO abram.mashego@city­press.co.za

When Fik­ile Mbalula was ap­pointed po­lice min­is­ter two weeks ago af­ter a Cab­i­net reshuf­fle, the pres­i­dency said it was be­cause crime, which con­tin­ues to be wor­ry­ingly high, needed to be tack­led by a young per­son with lots of en­ergy.

Mbalula has heap­fuls – he earned the nick­name Mr Razzmatazz for be­ing ac­tive ev­ery­where. And, as a for­mer pres­i­dent of the ANC Youth League, he is not want­ing when it comes to bom­bast. But will these be enough to ward off the crim­i­nals? He has al­ready warned that the po­lice will not fold their arms when armed crim­i­nals fire shots at them.

In fact, Mbalula has said he will en­sure that leg­is­la­tion cur­tail­ing the use of guns by po­lice when deal­ing with armed crim­i­nals is amended to ad­dress the vi­o­lent na­ture of crime in South Africa.

Speak­ing to City Press on the side­lines of a me­dia brief­ing, in which he an­nounced the ap­point­ment of act­ing Hawks head Yolisa Matakata, Mbalula said crim­i­nals would be squeezed.

“We have to iso­late crim­i­nals. We need to squeeze the space for crim­i­nals and make them un­set­tled in what they do,” he said.

“As we speak, they are on hol­i­day and they think they can do as they wish at any given time, ter­rorise peo­ple, bran­dish big firearms and put us as cit­i­zens, in­clud­ing the po­lice, in a cor­ner.”

The out­spo­ken Mbalula, who pre­vi­ously headed the sports min­istry, said the tran­si­tion from sports to the po­lice ser­vice would be a smooth one.

Mbalula is not new to the po­lice clus­ter, hav­ing served as deputy po­lice min­is­ter in 2009, along with the then min­is­ter, Nathi Mthethwa.

On one oc­ca­sion as deputy, Mbalula told mem­bers of Par­lia­ment that “the time to hug, kiss and massage crime has lapsed; a new cadre po­lice of­fi­cer has ar­rived”.

This week, he re­mained res­o­lute, say­ing: “Crim­i­nals have never re­spected the po­lice. Po­lice of­fi­cers need to be em­pow­ered to pro­tect them­selves in terms of meet­ing fire with fire.”

Mbalula’s plan of ac­tion in­cludes boost­ing po­lice morale, over­see­ing the pro­fes­sion­al­i­sa­tion and de­mil­i­tari­sa­tion of the po­lice ser­vice, and en­sur­ing that po­lice are val­ued for the work that they do and are legally pro­tected in the ex­e­cu­tion of their man­date.

Mbalula said part of his plan was to have a sin­gle polic­ing ser­vice and do away with the met­ro­pol­i­tan ser­vice be­cause the lat­ter was ac­count­able to no one.

“We have the metro po­lice, who are megain­de­pen­dent ... and not ac­count­able to any­body.

“So, we need sin­gle polic­ing – ev­ery­one who is do­ing po­lice work must be ac­count­able to the com­mand and con­trol of the po­lice. That is im­por­tant,” he said.

Un­like his pre­de­ces­sor Nathi Nh­leko, who spent con­sid­er­able amounts of money on le­gal fees, Mbalula said his aim was to spend more on polic­ing than fight­ing un­winnable bat­tles.

Mbalula cited the with­drawal of an ap­peal against the dis­missal of Hawks head Mthandazo Ntlemeza as one ex­am­ple.

Mbalula in­her­its a trou­bled po­lice ser­vice, which has

TALK TO US Do you think the new po­lice min­is­ter will fol­low this bold talk with ac­tion?

SMS us on 35697 us­ing the key­word MBALULA and tell us what you think. Please in­clude your name and prov­ince. SMSes cost R1.50 seen sev­eral po­lice com­mis­sion­ers come and go af­ter ac­cu­sa­tions of im­proper con­duct.

He said once sus­pended com­mis­sioner Riah Phiyega’s con­tract ex­pired in June, the hunt for a per­ma­nent head would be­gin as this would help to bring sta­bil­ity to the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

With the lead­er­ship of the In­de­pen­dent Po­lice In­ves­tiga­tive Direc­torate (Ipid) and the po­lice ser­vice seem­ingly at log­ger­heads, Mbalula will have to play a me­di­at­ing role.

He has al­ready un­der­taken to do so and bring an end to the back-and-forth bat­tles that have seen act­ing po­lice com­mis­sioner Kgomotso Phahlane ap­proach the court, seek­ing to pre­vent the po­lice watch­dog from con­duct­ing a probe into his wealth.

The watch­dog is in­ves­ti­gat­ing a string of al­le­ga­tions against Phahlane, in­clud­ing one that he re­ceived kick­backs while he headed the po­lice’s foren­sic ser­vices.

City Press has learnt that Ipid wrote to Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma and then po­lice min­is­ter Nh­leko, re­quest­ing to have Phahlane sus­pended.

Mbalula said sta­bil­ity and proper co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two in­sti­tu­tions were vi­tal in the fight against crime.

“I will be hav­ing a brief­ing with [Ipid head Robert] McBride and he will brief me about all the cases, in­clud­ing those of the se­nior man­age­ment of po­lice,” he said.

Mbalula said vi­o­lent crime – in­clud­ing cash-in-tran­sit heists, which ap­pear to be pick­ing up af­ter hav­ing fallen dra­mat­i­cally in the past three years – was very con­cern­ing.

“We need to go back to ba­sics ... we need to check what worked then and how we can con­tinue now.”

PHOTO: LISA HNATOWICZ

TOUGH TALK Po­lice Min­is­ter Fik­ile Mbalula, flanked by act­ing po­lice com­mis­sioner Kgomotso Phahlane

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