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SOWETAN | Resignation of elite cops troubling

File photo.
File photo.
Image: Elvis Ntombela

“Something is happening somewhere that we don’t know. You cannot have a number of our elite members recruited to be security guards. It is worrying for me and we hope that nothing is going to explode in our faces very soon.” 

This is how KwaZulu-Natal police commissioner Gen Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi raised the alarm over an exodus of special force members of the police, including members of the tactical National Intervention Unit, who are leaving the service “on a daily basis”. 

Mkhwanazi says he has raised his concerns with the national leadership of the police. 

He describes the resignations as odd and says he is further worried about where these cops are going. 

These are men and women with specialist skills to tackle dangerous and organised crimes such as cash-in-transit heists. 

As a career cop who has seen the worst of SA, Mkhwanazi’s predisposition is that of scepticism, which at times borders on conspiracy. 

But it would be naïve to turn a blind eye to his warnings, especially because of what they mean for the police and our national security. 

There are two matters at issue here. 

The first is the hollowing out of specialised skills in the police in a country increasingly battling violent, sophisticated and well-resourced crime syndicates. 

The second is how, as a result, the private security fraternity is becoming better positioned, well-trained and well-resourced to tactically respond to such criminal syndicates than the police. 

We have seen how security firms have become an integral part of police operations such as fighting illegal mining. 

While these collaborations are welcomed, we cannot afford to reach a point where police capacity is so eroded that they depend on private security firms to carry out their constitutional obligations. 

While Mkhwanazi suggests that the exodus of police may be an attempt to circumvent the state, the truth is many police are known to leave the working conditions of the police in search for better opportunities. 

Many police are underpaid, under-resourced, overburdened and at times have to contend with often dysfunctional organisational politics in the SAPS. 

For those who have the skills to trade elsewhere and under better working conditions, it is a no brainer that they would opt to do so. 

The question is what is our police leadership doing to reverse the increasingly troubling situation unfolding in their ranks? 

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