28 police officers fired, including veteran of 49 years of service who turned armed robber
Between them, Warrant Officer Mbulelo Samson Jaho and Constable Sebolai Hendrik Molete had clocked nearly 90 years of service with the police.
But it all ended in shame when they were discharged from the service last year for breaking the very law they had faithfully upheld and defended all those years.
In the case of Jaho, he was, by the time he was dismissed after 49 years of service, worse than Christopher Kelvaney, the crooked officer in Roy Rowland’s 1950s film Rougue Cop. In the movie, Kelvaney takes bribes and payoffs from criminals and other lowlifes.
But Jaho, as The Weekly was told by police, roads and transport MEC Butana Komphela, was doing more than taking bribes from illegal gold traders in the Welkom’s Goldfields area. The veteran policeman was robbing people using his service firearm to overpower his victims and dispossess them of their property.
As for Molete, the crimes that got him to forfeit 38 years of service with the police might not have been as violent as the crimes committed by armed robber Jaho, but they were no less grievous.
Molete was, according to Komphela, fired after investigations linked him to theft of 24 sheep, while 100 mandrax tablets with a street value of R95 000 were found at his home.
The two policemen were among a batch of 28 crooked officers from the Free State dismissed in the 2015/2016 financial year, in a crackdown that Komphela said is on-going and is meant to remove all the rotten apples from the police in the province.
The dismissed officers were all stationed at police stations in Lejweleputswa district, according to the MEC.
“These are some of the rotten apples that had to be uprooted from the police force,” Komphela said. He added: “We are dealing with corruption wherever it raises its ugly head hence the dismissal of these police officers.”
He said: “We cannot be speaking of being anti-corruption and yet fail to deal with the corrupt among our own ranks. We have to send a clear message that corruption, regardless of your position and status is not allowed.”
Komphela acknowledged the many good policemen and women who were doing an excellent job keeping law and order, saying there was no need to question the integrity of the upright officers because of the actions of a crooked few.
“A few rotten apples do not erase the outstanding work done by our policemen and women in ensuring that the people of this province are safe,” said Khompela.
But he said there was an urgent need to weed out the few criminal elements within the service because no progress was possible in the fight against crime and corruption unless the thieves, bribe-takers and other criminals masquerading as police officers were gotten rid of.
“It is a futile exercise to try and fight crime with a corrupt police force,” he said, adding the government would plough more resources into the fight against crime and corruption among police officers.
He warned corrupt officers to quit the service or face the consequences because the long hand of the law was sure to get them soon or later.
“If you feel the oath is too heavy to honour, the door is open. Just leave what belongs to us (police badge and other service paraphernalia) on the station commander’s desk and go …the clock is ticking for all those corrupt officers,” Komphela said.
The MEC also warned members of the public that pay bribes to police officers and induce them to commit other crimes that they will not be spared.
“To members of the community who are in the habit of bribing officers in uniform just remember that it is a crime and that your time is also up,” he said.
The uncompromising stance taken by Komphela and provincial police authorities against corruption in the service should go some way towards restoring public confidence in the law enforcement agency that some studies have shown is on the decline in the province and across South Africa.
For example a study released last year by research institute Future Fact found that about three quarters of South Africans believed that most police officers were criminals themselves.
According to the study, 70 percent of those interviewed said they were afraid and alert at all times because of crime, while 44 percent felt there was no point reporting crime to the police.
The survey was conducted in late 2014 and was based on a probability sample of 3 048 people aged from 18 years drawn from a cross section of society.
An internal audit carried out by the police ministry over a period of about two years and was completed in July 2013 also found that out of the 200 000 police officers and civilians employed by the law enforcement agency nationally, a total of 1 448 had criminal records.
In the Free State alone a total of 280 officers and other police service workers were found to have criminal records.
The crimes that the officers and civilian workers committed range from minor offences to serious ones such as rape and murder.
Some of the officers have since been fired or resigned from the police.