The South African Police Service has a proud heritage and has embarked on a steady journey of progress in the fight against crime. Nkosinathi Nhleko, Minister of Police and a man of steadfast principles shares his and the SAPS’s unwavering dedication to serving our country and ensure the safety of all citizens


How is the SAPS gearing itself for relevance in South Africa, today and in terms of the future?

The SAPS seeks to serve. It has adopted a “Back to Basics” approach to help simplify and animate its service delivery offering. The following key pillars inform the “Back to Basics” approach:

Discipline, and the manner in which police officers conduct themselves, as a distinctive characteristic of policing.
Enhanced police visibility, which implies more police officers in uniform, thereby minimising opportunities to commit a crime.
The deployment of operational resources to ensure the optimal utilisation of the limited resources that the police have at their disposal, ensuring that they are applied to maximum effect.
How do you hope to achieve these goals given the resource constraints that often thwart such ambitions?

The SAPS has been allocated R80.8-billion for 2016/2017. Key expenditure areas are the following:

  • Addressing the current fixed establishments.
  • Professionalising the police service through skills development.
  • Continued strengthening of the criminal justice system by contributing to the criminal justice sector revamp and modernisation programme.
  • Investing in capital assets consisting of machinery and equipment.
  • Strengthening the resource capability of Public Order Policing Unit. A total of R1.957 billion has been allocated for this purpose.

In recent times, there have been concerns about the unwarranted killings of police officers in South Africa. What are your thoughts on these killings?

Police killings cannot and will not be tolerated in South Africa. We have made special resources available to combat the spate of police killings and call on all citizens to work with us to fight the scourge. Attacks on police officers are shameful and retrogressive. Police attacks are attacks on the state and on the collective and individual freedoms of all of us. This kind of barbarism can and must be stopped.

What has your progress been in the fight against crime?

We are making progress, yet it is not enough. In the current financial year, we have increased the resourcing of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks).

It is now funded to the tune of R1.431 billion. We have re-established the Narcotics Bureau and the Firearm Investigation Combating units in response to the call made by our citizens.

In the years ahead, the Hawks will be funded directly from Treasury, in line with a ruling of the Constitutional Court premised on the need to safeguard the independence of the unit.

The Hawks have continued to notch up impressive successes, especially in the field of commercial crime and organised crime. Working with sister agencies, the unit has contributed to the freezing and forfeiture orders to the tune of R735 million.

The unit has also been involved in fighting rhino poaching, the illegal trade in precious metals and corruption and fraud in government, which has led to the conviction of 91 officials.

Our effort in fighting transnational, organised crime will continue and the recently-held Russia-Africa Anti-Drugs Dialogue bears testimony to the reach we are beginning to show with regard to the focussed fight against drugs.

What are some of the key philosophical underpinnings in your role as the Minister of Police?

At a personal level, I am, first and foremost, a servant of the people. What the President has mandated me to do is to give my all to the people of our beloved country through this critical portfolio.

Broadly speaking, my portfolio is inspired by the letter and spirit of our Constitution, the National Development Plan, the African National Congress’ Ready to Govern document, and of course, the Freedom Charter. For me, the NDP is a summation of the imperatives of nation-building, social cohesion, equity and justice for all. It’s a clarion call for the return to the values of Ubuntu.

Given our complex history of state-sponsored violence, the NDP is clear that we must demilitarise the SAPS.

It is imperative that the police serve the people of our country with integrity, dedication and compassion.

We cannot tolerate a SAPS that thrives on torture and all manner of abuse against citizens or foreign nationals who may be exposed to our criminal justice system under circumstances of vulnerability. Dignity to all is critical and must be encouraged in the entire SAPS family. At all times, the police must fully adhere to the letter and spirit of the Bill of Rights and embrace it in practice.

Is there progress in terms of realising the vision towards a new SAPS?

Without a doubt, South Africa is moving forward towards a new police dispensation. Already cabinet has approved two key pieces of legislation namely; the White Paper on Safety and Security and the White Paper on Policing. The White Paper on Safety and Security rests on these six pillars:

  • An effective criminal justice system
  • Early intervention to prevent crime and violence and promote safety
  • Victim support
  • Effective integrated service delivery for safety, security and violence and crime preventions
  • Safety through environmental design
  • active public and community participation
  • Meanwhile, the White Paper on Policing provides a framework that will regularise SAPS as part of the broader public service. This approach enhances the role of an effective civilian oversight mechanism over SAPS. It is also about a professional, well-resourced and highly-skilled police service.

Since you suspended the IPID Head, Mr Robert McBride, in 2015, an impression has been created that you were acting unfairly against Mr McBride, and that when he returned to work in October, it was proof that your actions were not justified. What is your comment?

First and foremost, I am a person of principle and do not get swayed at all by the currents of populist rhetoric and find the idea that I would target the IPID head with malicious intent quite preposterous. Nonetheless, let me try to contextualise my response as it is my duty to account to all South Africans.

When the Constitutional Court declared section 6(3) and (6) of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) Act unconstitutional on 6 September 2016, this did not mean that the Courts had pronounced on my motives. It merely ruled that Section 6(6) of the IPID Act, read with regulation 13 of the IPID Regulations, which gave me as the Minister of Police, the power to suspend, initiate disciplinary proceedings, and remove the Executive Director of IPID, was unconstitutional. Simply put, although I had used a valid law to effect the suspension, the Constitutional Court concluded that it was not ideal for the head of an independent institution such as IPID to be subjected to potential political manipulation since a Minister is a political appointee and, first and foremost, is seen to be serving a political agenda.

What is also significant about this judgement was the order by the Constitutional Court to set the suspension of the IPID head aside for 30 days to allow Parliament and the Minister to decide on the disciplinary steps against Mr McBride. In full compliance with the court order, on 7 September 2016, I wrote to the Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly (the “Speaker), requesting her to constitute a committee of the National Assembly or to authorise the Portfolio Committee on Police to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Mr Robert McBride on grounds of misconduct in terms of section 6(6) of the IPID Act 1 of 2011 as amended by the Constitutional Court order in the matter of Mc Bride vs Minister of Police and Another [2016] ZACC 30.

You went on record after Parliament had not acted in time and expressed your displeasure. Please elaborate.

I had to put things into their perspective—so many untruths had been peddled and I felt it was important that our citizens get the full picture. My premise is that, even in challenging times, we must strive to do what is right and just, even if this attitude may make us unpopular. The truth is the best life insurance for someone who is steadfastly principled.

I genuinely wish that the Speaker had taken the matter seriously and allowed due process as ruled by the Constitutional Court to take its course. I have no desire, of course, to attack the Speaker or Parliament, save to express my disappointment about the casual manner in which the matter was treated.

To this day, nobody has explained why Parliament could not take a decision on the suspension in line with the court order in 30 days.

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