Durban — Human rights and violence monitor Mary de Haas has called for a complete overhaul of the police recruitment system to avoid infiltration by politically connected recruits who in turn are used by politicians to eliminate their opponents.
The University of KwaZulu-Natal research fellow in the School of Law was reacting to the arrest of two police officers for the murder of an eThekwini ANC ward 99 councillor Mnqobi Molefe and his two friends.
The two officers, Mayendran Chetty and Vincent Phelago, based in eMkhomazi (Umkomaas) police station south of Durban, appeared at the Scottburgh Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday.
They faced two counts of murder for allegedly killing Mlungisi “Piks” Buthelezi and Nhlonipho Nzimande, who were the councillor’s associates, execution-style in separate incidents in August and September.
KZN NPA spokesperson Natasha Kara said Chetty and Phelago were also charged with two counts of murder in the Port Shepstone area, where they are alleged to have killed ward 99 councillor Mnqobi Molefe and another person, Zitha Mqapheli Cele.
“The matter returns to court on November 18, as it was previously remanded for them to get attorneys.”
Apart from facing two counts of murder, they also face one count of unlawful possession of a firearm and three counts of unlawful possession of ammunition.
They also face one count of conspiracy to commit murder.
Molefe, a councillor from eMkhomazi, had visited his fiancée on the South Coast when the suspects forced the door open before shooting him, in September. De Haas said the political interference in policing since 1994 was a direct result of growing police involvement in political killings.
She said it became worse in 2009 with ministerial involvement in operational matters, with Police Minister Bheki Cele later controlling a police unit tasked to investigate political killings.
She said this was a problem because the minister’s colleagues and comrades were potential suspects. She made an example of the establishment of the Tactical Response Unit, also known as the Berets Unit, in which two of its members are suspects in the Sindiso Magaqa case – another political killing.
“This is a problem and we need a thorough clean-up of the police, starting with a forensic audit of procurement and appointments, promotions and verification of qualifications.
“Fraud is rife in the police system. Now we know one of the senior management members is accused of identity fraud as there is evidence that she is not a South African citizen. To avoid this corrupt nepotistic network in the police service, we need a complete overhaul of the recruitment process to be done by an independent agency,” said De Haas.
She added that after the Marikana massacre, an expert panel report called for the establishment of an independent police board that will deal, among other things, with the training and recruitment of police, adding that to date nothing had been done.
The well-known violence monitor said most of the top police management got where they were today through political support, including promotions. She said this had resulted in the promotion of incompetent people.
“So when you have political control you can use it to charge political foes while protecting your own thugs,” said De Haas.
As the two police officers appeared, the court was packed to capacity by people who came to support the families of the victims. The families said they were eager to know who had hired the suspects to kill their relatives since these officers did not know the deceased.
One of the deceased’s relatives said that on the morning after his brother’s death one of the suspects came back to deliver his dead brother's cellphone.
He said the family had lost hope because the suspects may have destroyed evidence that could have been in his brother’s phone, since they had access to the docket.
The councillor’s brother, Sibonelo Molefe, said his brother’s fiancée had told the family that one of the attackers spoke English.
Meanwhile, the by-election to replace Molefe will be held next month and political parties have started their campaigns.