Following Ngcobo’s brief stint, Major-General Pat Mokushane was appointed, but has recently been fired from the position. The acting National Police Commissioner admitted to Parliament that Mokushane lacked the requisite security clearance and that he was being investigated for running his own business from work. The new appointee in Mokushane’s place, Ngcobo, is no stranger to the post, and is back in the saddle of the Crime Intelligence division, with the same degree of controversy as his prior appointment in 2012. Having served the current President within the Presidential Protection Unit for a number of years, one would not be amiss to conclude that this is an appointment where patronage mattered above national interests.

It is apparent that all the appointees to the position thus far have been political appointments, with very little regard for their ability to discharge the mandate for which the position calls. Importantly, the Constitution – as does the Act – makes clear that domestic intelligence owes allegiance to the country and to the inhabitants of the country, and nowhere else. As things stand, the proximity of the Crime Intelligence heads to politicians, including the President, does little to reassure the South African public that the prevention and combatting of crime is their priority. The recently released State of Urban Safety Report, as read with crime statistics released by the SAPS, paints a picture of unabating and relentlessly high levels of crime against both people and property.  The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) further posits that the failure of the Crime Intelligence division to effectively combat crime can be “attributed to a combination of large-scale fraud and corruption within the division, and the struggle for political control of this powerful intelligence institution”. This is true, considering the above charges facing Richard Mdluli.

Parliament, in terms of the Constitution, exercises an important oversight function of the Crime Intelligence division. However, such oversight is only conducted as a review mechanism. More so, parliamentary oversight is done after the unlawful or unethical conduct. This leaves no room for Parliament to intervene as a preventative measure, without infringing on the powers of the Minister of Police, who has the final responsibility for the functioning of the nation’s domestic intelligence.

As such, without political will, South African’s Crime Intelligence division will continue to witness the revolving door appointments of its leaders, which in turn affects the division’s ability to successfully combat crime. The nation lies vulnerable, but it is a self-inflicted vulnerability, which can be cured by the removal of political considerations from crime-fighting bodies. This must be coupled with a firm commitment to constitutional principles to guard against the politicisation of such bodies, and to ensure that only the best men and women are appointed to lead.

By Ms Phephelaphi Dube: Director, Centre for Constitutional Rights