Durban’s metro police department is in “crisis”.
It emerged this week that eThekwini municipal manager S’bu Sithole had ordered that the beleaguered police force now report directly to him instead of to the deputy city manager: safety and security, Cyril Mkhize. The Tribune was told that this was because of a string of complaints lodged against the force.
eThekwini spokesman Thabo Mofokeng confirmed that Sithole’s intervention was because of “challenges” within the department.
The latest scandal to hit the metro police was when two senior officers were arrested on charges of sexual harassment this week. The arrests came days after a senior administrator was suspended on allegations he sexually abused a female colleague. Their names are known to the Tribune, but cannot be revealed.
An urgent meeting was held in Sithole’s office on Friday with senior metro police officers, to deal with this matter.
Many of the complaints against the department have been covered in the Tribune. They include:
- That metro police head Eugene Nzama has failed in his leadership, with the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) having previously called for his dismissal.
- Allegations of nepotism and preferential treatment of certain staff.
- The appointment of staff to jobs beyond their capabilities.
- Abuse of municipal vehicles.
- Findings in the Manase forensic audit that at least 30 officers had bought their driver’s licences – and were told by senior officers where they could buy the licences from. There are calls for all those involved in this to be dismissed.
Samwu and the DA have called for a forensic audit into the department.
“(The) Metro police is in a state of confusion and appears to be managed by crisis intervention? An investigation should be conducted by an outside person who has the necessary skills and authority. Such an investigation should have judicial approval and have powers of subpoena,” said DA caucus leader Tex Collins.
Samwu KZN secretary Jaycee Ncanana agreed. “I’d say either that the entire leadership needs to be changed and replaced, or that an independent investigation needs to be done. The recommendations of such an investigation need to be respected and acted on. From where I’m standing, I can easily say they’re in a crisis. It is now time to take drastic action,” he said.
Collins also believes that a “ruthless” skills audit is needed to ensure that officers and administrators are qualified for the positions they hold.
Metro police spokesman Eugene Msomi declined to answer questions sent by the Tribune, other than to confirm the suspension of the administrator on sexual harassment allegations and that a date for his disciplinary hearing had not been set. All other comment he referred to Mofokeng.
SAPS spokesman Colonel Jay Naicker confirmed that two officers, aged 25 and 38, were arrested on Wednesday by the Brighton Beach Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Offences Unit on charges of sexual assault of a 25-year-old colleague in September last year.
The two lodged a High Court application on Thursday and were released until their next appearance on May 30.
Asked about the situation at the metro police, Mofokeng said Sithole was reviewing the city’s organisational structure, including the metro police.
“Any changes would have to be ratified by the appropriate committee at council level before it happens. But given the challenges at metro police, he decided to intervene.”
He said there were challenges in the department, but denied it was a crisis.
He added it would be “premature” to talk about a forensic probe into the police.
Collins said the biggest problem was a serious leadership vacuum in the metro police.
“Nzama is a soldier and not a policeman. He is autocratic and does not have the organi-sational skills or the inter-|personal skills to effectively manage the metro police. Unfortunately there are many individuals within the force who have been promoted way beyond their capabilities and this inevitably leads to system failure,” said Collins.
He questioned the decision to move the metro police under Sithole, saying “on the surface this sounds like a good idea”, but it would add a further burden for the city manager and could prove to be counter-productive.
Ncanana said: “The metro police are experiencing some very serious difficulties, many of which have been caused by senior managers, including the head. It wouldn’t surprise me if this move happens. Strong leadership is needed, and needed urgently.”