Picture the scene: Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) low-ranking officer Mandla Mahlangu is being offered the post of brigadier or colonel – regardless of qualifications, expertise or experience – only if he assists in bringing down his boss, Robert McBride.
The reward of a new post several levels higher is being relayed to him in a telephone conversation with crime intelligence senior officer Tlou Kgomo.
Amid the circus, South Africa’s most senior policeman, Khomotso Phahlane, is being showered with money and lavish gifts like cars, funding for the construction of his home and the installation of a state-of-the-art R80,000 music system by a service provider to the South African Police Service (SAPS) – a matter which is at the heart of an Ipid investigation.
Upon realising that his back is against the wall, Phahlane immediately swings into action and enlists the services of the notorious Mabula Team in North West – led by Major-General Jan Mabula.
Feared for waging a reign of terror in the police service with impunity, Mabula and his men are transferred from North West to be stationed at a Pretoria hotel for a month at taxpayers’ expense.
He is employed to conduct counter-investigations against McBride, his staff and whistleblowers.
Meanwhile, then police minister Nathi Nhleko, who is also obsessed with getting rid of McBride and Hawks head Anwa Dramat, have appointed as chief-of-staff Leon Mbangwa – a Zimbabwean fraudster with a criminal record whose South African citizenship is in question.
Porous are our borders and the police minister’s office, heightening the risk to the country’s security.
Although this may have taken place in South Africa some years ago, during the Jacob Zuma presidency, the country’s criminal justice system, which includes the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) and the intelligence community, is still besieged by rogue elements who are a law unto themselves, according to McBride’s chilling testimony before the Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.
McBride has this week conceded that unless the rule of law was restored and a radical culture change introduced in the police force, the spectre of endemic corruption with impunity is far from being extinguished.
“To police, constitutional democracy is relatively new and SAPS is not accustomed to constitutionalism and the rule of law, but rather to feeding off corruption,” McBride told Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.
How sobering that message should be for President Cyril Ramaphosa, whom we expect to waste no time in overhauling the criminal justice system – taking out all the rotten apples.
What is clear is that such a move may require not only the intervention of Ramaphosa, Police Minister Bheki Cele or NPA head Shamila Batohi – but much more than that.
The problem is not just at the top, but also in the middle and lower management structures.
This war needs all hands and brains on deck, regardless of political affiliation or ideology.