M&G Cabinet Report Cards 2017: Fikile Mbalula

Minister of Police

2016 Grade: n/a

2017 Grade: D

If grades were allocated for speed of tweeting and for a seemingly relentless desire for publicity — and landing himself with his foot in his mouth in the process — then Police Minister Fikile Mbalula would be at the top of the class.

But they aren’t, although to his credit the former sports minister has proved to be willing to work to boost the flagging morale, performance and image of the South African Police Service (SAPS).

Although he has tried to make breakthroughs in high-profile hotspots in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, he faces an uphill battle.

He inherited a very fractured SAPS leadership when he took over the portfolio from Nkosinathi Nhleko after the March Cabinet reshuffle and has battled to restore public confidence in policing in the face of spiralling crime and a wave of unsolved political killings in KwaZulu-Natal and elsewhere.

Under Nhleko, the Hawks and the SAPS were drawn into a politically driven war with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate and Crime Intelligence and its rogue leadership under General Richard Mdluli were an embarrassment to police leadership.

One of Mbalula’s first significant acts as minister was to axe disgraced acting SAPS commissioner General Khomotso Phahlane and General Berning Ntlemeza, whose irregular and irrational appointment had been defended by Nhleko. A permanent Hawks head has still to be found and Crime Intelligence remains deeply dysfunctional, partially because of its involvement in the ANC’s succession battle.

The appointment by President Jacob Zuma of General Khehla John Sitole, the former head of SAPS protection services and security, as a permanent national police commissioner in November should bring some stability to the SAPS. There has been a succession of acting commissioners since October 2015 when Riah Phiyega was suspended, so Mbalula has a solid base to work from, unless the apparent curse that has claimed Sitole’s predecessors claims him too.

Ultimately, Mbalula’s gung-ho attitude, such as his “crush their balls” speech in Pretoria, has made more headlines than his attempts to understand crime trends from his weekly briefings with the SAPS management and to deploy resources appropriately.

 

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