Juvenal’s question “Quis custodiet ipsos custodies” applies in South Africa

In his satirical poem eponymously called Satires, the Roman Poet Juvenal raised this existential question, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodies” meaning “Who will guard the guardians themselves.” This scourge now seriously afflicts the Security Cluster in South Africa.   

The latest spat between the Priority Crimes Unit, commonly referred to as the Hawks and Robert McBride, the head of IPID, the Independent Police Investigate Department highlights the phenomenon of the politicisation of the various organs of the Security Cluster. 

Furthermore, there has been the progressive securitisation of the state under Jacob Zuma’s watch. 

Main picture: Robert McBride is the latest victim of the internecine warfare between the components of the security establishment. He was recently charged with treason, fraud amongst other charges

The issue of securitisation of the state and that of the politicisation of the organs of the Security Cluster are interrelated. The common denominator in both instances is one, Jacob Zuma. Within the Umkhonto we Sizwe – the ANC’s military wing, Zuma played a key role in security. That is his background. If the rumours regarding how Zuma operates can be taken at face value, he operates on the basis of “dirt” that he has collected on certain individuals who are then beholden to him personally.

This process has manifested itself in umpteen dubious appointments not only within the Security Cluster but in other departments as well. In the case of the Minister of Police, the record of appointment history has not been flawless. Jackie Selebi was convicted of fraud, Bheki Cele left under a cloud whereas Riah Phiyega was suspended for the killing of 34 miners by the police at Marikana.

Prince Mokotedi - The former executive manager of the NPA's Integrity Management Unit

Prince Mokotedi – The former executive manager of the NPA’s Integrity Management Unit

Replacing Phiyega is Acting Police Commissioner General Khomotso Phalane who is turn is under investigation for acquiring a house in one of Gauteng’s most exclusive lifestyle estates thought to be valued at R8m. The questions raised relate to how it was possible for Phalane to afford this house.

Incidents where the Intelligence Services under David Mahlobo have been unethically involved are mounting. These incidents involve matters, which are not under the remit of the Intelligence Services. The blocking of all cellphone reception during the State of the Nation Address as the security services deemed that there was a threat of a plane attacking Parliament.

David Mahlobo admits visiting spa‚ but denies links to rhino trade

David Mahlobo admits visiting spa‚ but denies links to rhino trade

More surreal are the revelations by the SACP, a member of the Tripartite Alliance, that they are being targeted with calls being tapped. The latest in a series of exposes is that the Intelligence Services were used to identify a whistle-blower at the SABC.

This is clearly the tip of the iceberg.

As regards the politicisation of the Security Cluster, it is abundantly clear that all arms are at war with one another. The Head of all its arms now face charges laid by one of the other fellow Security Cluster organisations.

It appears that Bathabile Dlamini, Head of the ANC Women’s League, complaint that all ANC members have small nyanas or skeletons in their closets is true generally. Take the case of Robert McBride who issued a Warning Statement to the Head of the Hawks last week. What transpired while he being issued with this Statement, Mahlobo threatened to issue McBride with a retaliatory Warning Statement.

Bathabile Dlamini - admitting that she was not the only person with skeletons in the cupboard

Bathabile Dlamini – admitting that she was not the only person with skeletons in the cupboard

This he duly did. Tit for tat. You charge me & I will charge you.

Apart from the issue of ethics, how was it possible that the Hawks were able to dredge up a dormant case relating to ten years ago at such short notice unless they had prepared it in advance in case of such an eventuality.

This reminds me of a blog by Mr Eddie Cross, an MP of the MDC in the Zimbabwean Parliament, in which he states that if he gazes across at the Zanu-PF benches, he is able to recite the unprosecuted acts of corruption against most of the ruling parties’ members. He knows their misdeeds but so does Mugabe. Yet no action is taken against such delinquents. This is the Damoclean Sword that Mugabe holds over them.

Is a similar situation applicable in South Africa?

Eddie Cross - MDC MP for Bulawayo South

Eddie Cross – MDC MP for Bulawayo South

Also involved in this low-level warfare, is the NPA, the National Prosecuting Authority.

The game that all are playing is the same. It is the protection of the corrupt members of the Executive and the persecution of the whistle blowers by laying defamatory or bogus charges.

All of this relates to my opening comment, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodies” or “Who will guard the guardians themselves.”

Fundamentally, the error in the current structure is that all components are appointed by and beholden to the same corrupt Executive. Instead of both IPID and the Hawks being established as Section 9 Institutions, they do not possess the requisite levels of independent to prevent the Executive from interfering in their operation.

Shaun Abrahams has been implicated in the shenanigans regarding Pravin Gordhan

Shaun Abrahams has been implicated in the shenanigans regarding Pravin Gordhan

Finally, Nathi Nhleko, the Minister responsible for all these organisations, has wilfully selected individuals of known moral ambiguity and questionable ethics to fill these roles.

Possibly this is one chink in their armour.

Solidarity and Paul O’Sullivan have jointly laid a charge against the Acting Police Commissioner for corruption.

The chess pieces in this drama are no longer operating in the shadows. One by one their misdeeds are being exposed making them all wary of dramatic actions. This is another chink in the armour – the rivalry, suspicion and distrust between the various players.

Paul O'Sullivan

Paul O’Sullivan

Soon one piece will fall. In doing so, retribution will be swift, involving the “dirt” on the other players.

In this regard, surely South Africa is unique is how incriminating or damning evidence is brought into the public domain.

How 2017 will unfold is anybody’s guess but Juvenal’s question two millenia ago “Quis custodiet ipsos custodies” still resonates today.

But hold on tightly.

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