Ex-police boss case rattles South Africa

Charges against former crime-intelligence head Richard Mdluli have shaken the country's ideal of an independent police force that is untainted by politics.

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    The circus surrounding South Africa's former police crime-intelligence boss has become increasingly unbelievable.

    But in the past few days it's descended into farce - I'll get to that soon first, here's how it has unfolded.

    Richard Mdluli was suspended last year after being charged with the 1999 murder of his former lover's husband. Six months later he was arrested and charged with fraud and corruption over allegations he siphoned off funds from a secret crime-intelligence account to buy luxury cars, and for putting family members on the payroll.

    But this year all the charges, and disciplinary proceedings, were dropped inexplicably and Mdluli was reinstated - although moved to another division.

    In the midst of this, Mdluli presented to the court a letter he had written to President Jacob Zuma alleging that certain police officers were plotting Mduli's downfall, and that the charges against him were politically motivated by Zuma's rivals.

    Mdluli is believed to enjoy the president's support because it is alleged he leaked confidential tape recordings to Zuma's lawyers in 2009 which helped get criminal charges against Zuma dropped.

    In the wake of mounting criticism from the opposition and lobby groups, Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, the acting national police commissioner, suspended Mdluli again, citing the ongoing court inquest into the murder of Mdluli's former lover's husband.

    But he fought it in court on the basis that correct protocol had not been followed and last Friday convinced the Labour Court that he should be reinstated immediately.

    On Sunday, Mkhwanazi had the reinstatement overturned but it isn't over yet they will all be back in court on June 21.

    In the meantime, the lobby group Freedom Under Law has launched legal action to block Mdluli from performing any official duty and a ruling is due on that this week.

    Frankly, you couldn't make it up.

    The judge hearing Freedom Under Law's arguments in court has described it as a merry-go-round, but while dizzying in its twists and turns there isn't anything remotely entertaining about the whole affair for most South Africans.

    Regardless of what anyone may think, or believe, relating to the allegations against Mdluli (and nothing has been proven in court) the inescapable truth is that the ideal of an independent police force is hanging on by a thread because it's become mired in too much politics.


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