Principle of morality must apply equally to all leaders

Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya

Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya

There can be little debate about the correctness of the view that if South Africa is to win the perception war as far as crime is concerned, National Police Commissioner Jackie Selebi should go.

The national commissioner, innocent until proven guilty as he is, should do the honourable thing and resign from his job. This will not be an admission of guilt but an appreciation on his part that his is no ordinary job.

But the underlying fundamental of this argument would have to apply to ANC president Jacob Zuma too, who incidentally has called for a permanent police commissioner.

As with Selebi, Msholozi is guilty of no crime. As with the national police commissioner the closest he gets to being guilty of anything is that he is friends with a convicted felon.

In fact, more than Selebi, Zuma's friend is in jail precisely because of his dealingswith Zuma.

While one agrees with Safety and Security Minister Nathi Mthethwa that appointing a permanent chief of police is important for the morale and strategic guidance of the police service, I cannot see why this should not apply to any of the country's leaders.

Ultimately, the president of the republic is responsible for the strategic and operational plan of anything that happens within his or her country.

Having a president who is under a cloud - guiltless as he might be - is as bad as having a national police commissioner about whom there is more than a rumour that he is up to no good.

The underlying tone of Mthethwa and the ANC pronouncements about Selebi is that he has to be fired. Otherwise they would have asked President Kgalema Motlanthe to terminate Selebi's leave and make him return to work. In that way the problem that Mthethwa articulates most pointedly - the need for a permanent national police commissioner - would have been resolved.

But they want him fired.

The principle that Mthethwa and the ANC speak of - even if not in as many words - is that we need to trust that those who lead us are people of complete integrity.

It is a troublesome proposition that the ANC is making, given some of the realities it confronts.

ANC parliamentary chief whip Mnyamezeli Booi will next month go to court to fight charges related to the Travelgate scandal. Again, as with Zuma and Selebi, Booi is guilty of nothing.

Aware that he cannot use the undermining of the integrity of public institutions argument, Mthethwa makes it look like a morale or strategy matter. It is as if the police are saying they cannot arrest criminals while their boss is out there enjoying an extended holiday.

Mthethwa has been praised for the 11 percent decline in cash-in-transit heists, armed robberies and ATM bombings and has pronounced that "all in all we are on track and we are happy with the work that has been done", while Selebi was busy with his heart's desires.

Mthethwa and the ANC have opened this door. They have to deal with the undesired implications of their pronouncements.