Friday, July 19, 2024

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Senzo Mchunu replaces Bheki Cele as Police Minister

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President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday 30 June announced the new members of the National Executive for the seventh administration, and this includes a new police minister.

Senzo Mchunu, Minister of Water and Sanitation, has been appointed as Police Minister, replacing Bheki Cele, while the new deputies are Polly Boshielo and Cassel Mathale.

Mchunu was formerly the Minister of Public Service and Administration from 30 May 2019 to 5 August 2021 and the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal from 22 August 2013 until 23 May 2016.

A teacher by training, Mchunu was the inaugural Provincial Secretary of the ANC’s branch in KwaZulu-Natal after its establishment in 1994, and he was first elected to the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Legislature in 1997. While still in the legislature, he returned to the ANC Provincial Secretary position from 2005 until May 2009, when he was appointed Member of the Executive Council for Education in Zweli Mkhize’s provincial government. In 2013, he succeeded Mkhize both as ANC Provincial Chairperson and as Premier of KwaZulu-Natal. He was ousted from the party office in November 2015 in a bitter contest with Sihle Zikalala, and in May 2016 the ANC compelled him to resign from the Premier’s office.

Formerly an ally of President Jacob Zuma, Mchunu was politically aligned to Ramaphosa by 2016. In 2017 he won election to the ANC National Executive Committee and he subsequently served a brief stint as head of organising at Luthuli House, the ANC’s national headquarters, until he was appointed to Ramaphosa’s cabinet after the 2019 general election. He was re-elected to a second five-year term on the ANC National Executive Committee in December 2022.

In August 2021, Ramaphosa announced a cabinet reshuffle in which Mchunu was moved to the Ministry of Water and Sanitation, newly split from the former Ministry of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation.

Commenting on Mchunu’s appointment, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA) said, “we had expected Senzo Mchunu to retain his position as Minister of Water and Sanitation, as he was doing good work to rectify many problems related to poor performance by his predecessors. Nonetheless, we believe he may be a good fit to assist with the professionalising of the police and to address the lack of leadership that has pervaded the police over many years. We urge the new minister, Pemmy Majodina, to continue the good work that has been done in Water and Sanitation, as we have a water crisis in the country with regards to service delivery and pollution.”

Crime expert Yusuf Abramjee said Mchunu is known to be hardworking “and let’s hope he will do what it takes to make South Africa safe. It’s important for the political head to lead the way and bring stability in the SA Police Service – and boost morale of the men and women in blue.”

Cele was Police Minister from February 2018 and is one of those not returning to Parliament alongside several other ANC members, including International Relations Minister Dr Naledi Pandor, Defence Minister Thandi Modise and Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu.

Cele’s career has spanned notable roles, including National Police Commissioner from 2010 to 2011, until his suspension due to misconduct allegations. Controversy has followed Cele through incidents like his ‘shoot to kill’ remarks, and he has been criticised for failing to reduce chronically high crime levels.

Ferial Haffajee, writing for Daily Maverick, stated that, “it’s a pity that Senzo Mchunu has been moved to the Ministry of Police because he has been an excellent water affairs and sanitation minister. But with a technocratic bent, he could begin to get a handle on runaway crime which years of bloviating by Bheki Cele failed to dent.”

The appointment of two deputies for police — Polly Boshielo and Cassel Mathale — is questionable because the police need less political interference in crime-fighting, not more, she added.

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