Mbalula to address the Berning question

The vetting process to appoint the next head of the elite Hawks crime-fighting unit must be completely overhauled.

That’s the message that has emerged after the current incumbent‚ Berning Ntlemeza‚ was given his marching orders yesterday by the Pretoria High Court.

Ntlemeza yesterday tried to appeal against last month’s Pretoria High Court ruling that his appointment be reviewed.

Judges Peter Mabuse‚ Jody Kollapen and Selby Baqwa‚ however‚ turned the appeal down and ordered that he vacate his office immediately.

Ntlemeza’s removal from his post is regardless of whether he approaches the Supreme Court of Appeal or the Constitutional Court.

Police minister Fikile Mbalula‚ who yesterday withdrew his support for Ntlemeza’s appeal‚ will speak this morning on the court’s announcement.

Speaking ahead of Mbalula’s press conference‚ Unisa criminologist Rudolph Zinn said the Hawks head was one of the country’s top police officers.

“That post requires that the person is fit and proper and is credible‚ who understands the legislation which is required to manage an elite crime-fighting unit such as the Hawks.

“It cannot be a political appointee. It has to be someone who’s objective who can address the unit’s mandate of ensuring that investigations‚ particularly high-profile corruption cases‚ possibly involving politically connected people‚ are done properly.”

He said the problem lay with the vetting process of such appointees.

“If the vetting process was up to scratch‚ we would not be sitting now with the Ntlemeza debacle‚ which is just one of many in the police.”

He said the vetting process needed to be overhauled.

“It needs to look at numerous issues and include a financial analysis‚ to ensure whoever is appointed to senior posts is above corruption.

“This is standard practice in the private sector‚ so why can’t it become so in the public sector?” he asked.

Criminologist Anthony Minnaar agreed and said the vetting process should be done by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate‚ who could report their findings to a properly established interview panel.

“How the police do the vetting of themselves for senior positions is a mystery.”

He said the qualities and qualifications required of the head of the Hawks was the same that was required of the national police commissioner.

“Whoever heads the Hawks has to be beyond reproach. Those who vet this person have to ensure this.

“The directorate is best suited to vet applicants. They have the jurisdiction to do so. They can inspect personnel files‚ investigate and make legal inquiries.

“They can go into the full service history of a person‚ who should be a career police officer‚ having worked their way up through the ranks.”

He said the directorate should then have to report back to a properly established panel‚ which should consist of the police minister‚ parliamentary portfolio committee members and policing experts.

“The Hawks is not a Mickey Mouse organisation. They investigate some of the country’s worst criminals‚ including organised transnational syndicates.

“The person heading them has to have sound knowledge of such investigations.

“Only by ensuring proper vetting will you be able to get the right candidate for the job.”

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