Controversial top cop Khomotso Phahlane was on Thursday simultaneously removed as acting police commissioner and suspended from the police altogether, in the face of corruption allegations.
In rapid succession on Thursday evening the Presidency first announced the appointment of Lesetja Mothiba as interim national commissioner before police minister Fikile Mbalula announced that Phahlane would go home, on full pay, while he was under investigation.
Mbalula said President Jacob Zuma would seek to permanently fill the post soon. He stressed that Phahlane was still considered innocent.
“I take this opportunity to thankLieutenant-General Phahlane for his contribution,” Mbalula said.
In announcing Mothiba’s appointment, the Presidency said only that Phahlane’s contract as interim commissioner had ended.
It did not mention his suspension. Yet Mbalula said he had recommended the suspension to Zuma, and thanked Zuma for his support in the matter.
Mbalula also fired a warning shot across the bows of the Independent Police Complaint Directorate (Ipid) headed by Robert McBride, which Phahlane has accused of an illegality and conspiracy in pursuit of him.
“Where there is even a perception of threat t0 our Constitution, we are duly bound to act to protect it where we can,” Mbalula said on Phahlane’s counter-allegations.
Mothiba became the acting provincial police commissioner in Gauteng when his predecessor, Mondli Zuma, was removed within hours of being appointed after it emerged that he faced criminal charges.
In early 2016 Mothiba was appointed to head up a management intervention unit within the police, to assess performance internally.