Editorials 27.1.2017 05:16 am

Top cop position is a poisoned chalice

Former acting National Police Commissioner; Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane. (Photo by Gallo Images / Beeld / Deaan Vivier)

Former acting National Police Commissioner; Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane. (Photo by Gallo Images / Beeld / Deaan Vivier)

From George Fivaz’s appointment as police commissioner, to Phahlane, the position is a far from happy one.

There can be little doubt the important position of police commissioner has proved to be a poisoned chalice since George Fivaz was appointed by Nelson Mandela in 1995.

The latest incumbent – although in an acting capacity – is Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane, who is under the microscope for accepting gifts from associates in business circles linked to the South African Police Service, his personal fleet of vehicles and his luxury home in Pretoria raided by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid).

It is just another name to add to the list since Fivaz stepped down in January 2000 and the title has subsequently come to represent a turgid treadmill of finger-pointing and recrimination, starting with Jackie Selebi, who took over from Madiba’s initial appointee.

Selebi, president of ANC Youth League between 1987 and 1991, was controversial from the outset, strongly criticised for his “what’s all the fuss about crime?” comment and advocating the legalisation of prostitution and public drinking for the duration of the 2010 Soccer World Cup hosted in South Africa. But it was his friendship with Glenn Agliotti, a convicted drug lord and suspect in the murder of Brett Kebble, which finally led to his suspension and ultimately a 15-year prison sentence for corruption.

Since then the Stetson-wearing Bheki Cele was suspended by President Jacob Zuma, who dismissed him with the words: “I have decided to release General Cele from his duties”, in June 2012 under the shadow of suspect building leases.

Cele was followed by Riah Phiyega, parachuted into the post from the unlikely background as an Absa Group board member and herself suspended in 2015, in the wake of the Marikana massacre, and Phahlane.

Clearly a police officer’s lot – especially a police commissioner – is a far from happy one.

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