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Overhaul Ipid

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What stared out as a stroke of genius, has turned into an office with no teeth

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IN ANY meaningful democratic institution oversight is critical to guard against the abuse of power. As a country, we have done well in establishing chapter nine institutions such as the Public Protector and the South African Human Rights Commission to speak for the downtrodden and marginalised members of our society.

The formation of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid) to investigate crimes by the police was another stroke of genius by those credited with the drafting of our constitution.

While the police watchdog is not a chapter nine institution, its role of investigating crimes by the police is essential. That is why we find the testimony coming out of the Moerane Commission disturbing. KwaZulu-Natal Premier Willies Mchunu set up the commission to probe the root cause of political murders in the province.

During one of the testimonies, Ipid came under attack from one of its own leaders who labelled the police watchdog’s KwaZulu-Natal office a “corrupt, incompetent organisation that has failed the victims of police crimes”.

Amar Maharaj, the national head of Ipid’s ethics division, backed testimony last month by the provincial violence monitor and human rights activist Vanessa Burger, who had labelled the office as “dysfunctional”.

It is one thing for Ipid to be slammed by an outsider like Burger, it is another when the criticism emanates from within. It is clear an urgent solution is needed.

The closing of hundreds of cases without proper investigation is a serious concern. This means dangerous police officers who have committed serious crimes have been allowed to escape scot-free.

The Ipid national leaders must overhaul the office by removing all the incompetent officers and replacing them with those who take their jobs seriously. Cops who take the law into their own hands will continue to abuse the system if they know that the Ipid office has no teeth.

Maharaj must be the most isolated Ipid official right now. His admission of the weaknesses in his organisation should not be taken lightly. We would like to congratulate him for his courage to speak up.

Officials like him are in short supply.