The second CPLO/Hanns Seidel co-hosted roundtable for 2017 took place and the speakers were: Mr Gareth Newham, head of the Crime and Justice Programme at the Institute of Security Studies; Dr Nicola de Jager, senior lecturer in Political Science at the University of Stellenbosch; and Mr Zakhele Mbhele MP, the Democratic Alliance’s shadow minister for police. Mr Newham pointed out that most of the heads of these agencies, as well as their senior leadership, are directly appointed by the country’s President. This constitutional provision was not problematic when someone like Nelson Mandela was President, but that situation had changed. It was clear that there was now considerable and undue political interference in these appointments, and in the dismissal of some senior officers who had been trying to fight against such interference. Dr de Jager placed the question of state capture in the justice sector within the wider context of corruption and low quality of government. South Africa has a serious normative problem in its governance: politically powerful people have begun to use the state for private purposes, rather than for the benefit of the country as a whole. Mr Mbhele noted that the policy of cadre deployment, while to a certain extent understandable, had resulted in a situation where ‘connections trump competence’; political loyalty, rather than ability to do the job, was the driving force behind appointments and promotions. Mr Mbhele agreed that the President’s powers of appointment needed to be curtailed, but in the long-term the only way that political office-bearers would be more responsive to public concerns was if there was stronger political competition. The meeting ended with a round of comment and discussion from the floor. It was clear that there are no easy solutions for these problems, but there was nevertheless hope for an improvement through a combination of court interventions, public protest, and electoral change.
L-R: Mr Gareth Newham, Dr Nicola de Jager, Fr Peter-John Pearson (Director, CPLO), and Mr Zakhele Mbhele