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By Setumo Stone, 07 MAY 2015, Business Daily (South Africa)
THE appalling service by the police is often lamented in crime-ridden SA. But recently it’s not just the ordinary members who have been in the spotlight. Senior police officials are caught up in a web of allegations, including criminal conduct, which has tainted the investigating and supporting units. It appears there are bad officers who exercise enormous power. And the rot seems to start at the top.
Despite allegations of misconduct, national police commissioner Riah Phiyega continues to serve. Police Minister Nkosinathi Nhleko has not acted on a report understood to have recommended disciplinary charges against Gen Phiyega for tipping off Western Cape provincial police commissioner Arno Lamoer about a criminal investigation against him. Mr Nhleko’s spokesman, Musa Zondi, hinted in an interview with Business Day last month that Gen Phiyega was still in the minister’s sights, saying Mr Nhleko would make his move “in good time”.
Lt-Gen Lamoer appeared in court last month on charges that include racketeering, and is out on R5,000 bail. Gen Phiyega’s credibility took a knock at the Marikana commission of inquiry, with evidence leaders saying that she had, among others things, given false evidence. The Institute for Security Studies says similar concerns were raised against her during the disciplinary hearing of KwaZulu-Natal Hawks head Johan Booysen in 2013.
Mr Zondi has told Business Day that the suspension of former Hawks head Anwa Dramat was part of Mr Nhleko’s project to clean up the police after a probe he instituted soon after taking office. The findings have not been made public. Lt-Gen Dramat’s resignation, even after the courts reversed his unlawful suspension by Mr Nhleko, suggested there was more to the matter, but he has not said what. He left through a negotiated settlement that appeared to be geared to cushion him from possible criminal charges for his alleged involvement in the kidnapping, assault and illegal deportation of four Zimbabweans in 2010. At least two of them have since been killed.
Two of the three reports on the Zimbabwe case — the most recent of which was by Werksmans Attorneys, which was leaked last weekend — painted Lt-Gen Dramat in a bad light. The one report favourable to him is at the centre of the suspension of Robert McBride, head of the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid). Werksmans concluded that the watered-down report was intended to shield Lt-Gen Dramat by Mr McBride, who is understood to be close to the former Hawks boss.
According to the Werksmans report, Lt-Gen Dramat narrowly avoided prosecution in March because of bungling by the National Prosecuting Authority. It recommended criminal charges against Lt-Gen Dramat and Gauteng head of the Hawks Shadrack Sibiya, whose suspension was overturned in court, as well as Mr McBride. Mr Nhleko and Mr McBride are entangled in a legal battle and the Werksmans report is likely to up the stakes.
Although not clearly stated in the Werksmans report, one of Maj-Gen Sibiya’s, and possibly Lt-Gen Dramat’s, gripes with the first Ipid report that recommended they be charged for the Zimbabwe matter could be the involvement of the police’s crime intelligence unit in the investigation. Maj-Gen Sibiya previously investigated former Crime Intelligence chief Richard Mdluli. Thus Maj-Gen Sibiya and his allies see the Zimbabwe rendition charges as revenge.
Mr Nhleko’s appointment of Berning Ntlemeza to replace Lt-Gen Dramat reinforced the conspiracy theory as Maj-Gen Ntlemeza was seen to be close to Lt-Gen Mdluli. One of Maj-Gen Ntlemeza’s first tasks was to suspend Maj-Gen Sibiya. However, the decision was overturned by a court. In reversing the decision, a Pretoria High Court judge described Maj-Gen Ntlemeza as dishonest and lacking integrity. He remains the acting head of the Hawks.
The Werksmans report states that crime intelligence was involved in the Zimbabwe rendition matter because it had already started an investigation ahead of the Ipid. Lt-Gen Mdluli is expected back in court next week on charges of fraud, corruption and money laundering, together with co-accused Heine Barnard, also a former crime intelligence agent. The chaos in the police has not evaded Parliament, which last month declined to approve the police’s budget because of maladministration and the causal manner in which things were being done.
It is a crisis.