Axe drops on embattled acting top cop Phahlane

Lieutenant General Khomotso Phahlane
Picture: Simphiwe Nkwali

Minister Mbalula steps in after claims of illegal activities ‘tarnished the SAPS’

Embattled acting police chief Khomotso Phahlane was removed from his post last night and is also fighting to keep his permanent position on the force. He was removed with immediate effect as acting national police commissioner and has been given two days to provide reasons why he should not be suspended from his position as the SA Police Service’s head of forensic services.

This was announced in Cape Town last night by Police Minister Fikile Mbalula.

His removal as acting commissioner and his imminent suspension follow serious allegations of money laundering‚ defeating the ends of justice and racketeering, which are being probed by the police watchdog body, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid).

Phahlane has been replaced by Lieutenant-General Lesetja Mothiba, who was until now the SAPS divisional head of the Management Intervention Unit.

Mbalula informed President Jacob Zuma that Phahlane’s presence tarnished the SA Police Service.

“I informed His Excellency‚ President Jacob Zuma‚ that the general’s continued holding of office negatively impacts on the ministry and department for which I am responsible‚” Mbalula said.

He said the serious allegations of misconduct affected Phahlane’s fitness to hold office.

“The allegations against Lieutenant-General Phahlane raise questions of conduct that would be inconsistent with expectations that attend those who hold leadership in our police service‚” Mbalula said.

“I am duty bound to make it clear that Lieutenant-General Phahlane has a right to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

“The allegations levelled are yet to be tested in a court of law.”

Mbalula said removing Phahlane was in the interest of justice.

“There clearly are accepted perception discomforts with regard to a perceived interference risk which leads itself to potential national security risk should Ipid be impeded in doing their constitutional duty lawfully by anyone‚” Mbalula said.

“It is my belief that LieutenantGeneral Phahlane and the rule of law be better served if he is afforded adequate time and personal freedom to focus on these personal allegations against him without the added burdens of the office of the acting national police commissioner.”

Phahlane has been redeployed to his position of forensic services divisional commissioner, but this too could be temporary. “Accordingly‚ Lieutenant-General Phahlane has been requested by myself to furnish me with cogent and reasonable reasons why I should not suspend him with immediate effect‚” Mbalula said.

Meanwhile‚ the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) has welcomed the appointment of Mothiba.

Spokesman Richard Mamabolo said Popcru had placed all hope in Mothiba restoring the integrity of the office of the police commissioner‚ adding that the union had felt that the SAPS had been “compromised” under Phahlane’s leadership.

In nine days‚ however‚ the tenure of the current national police commissioner, Riah Phiyega‚ who is currently on suspension‚ comes to an end.

It remains to be seen whether Mothiba will be appointed to fill Phiyega’s shoes.

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